“Loneliness is a killer – a solitary problem”. The words of the song sung by Seal.
Most people assume Lifestyle Medicine is about what we eat and how active we are. It is but it there are greater issues, social issues, which predict our health. Loneliness is one. Its impact is as great as excess alcohol or being a smoker. Did you know that 1 in 3 folk over aged 65 are sometimes or always lonely? A problem accentuated by hearing loss. (I have just joined the >65 group – which marked by a letter through the post inviting me for a NHS screen of my Aorta. Don’t get me started!) If you have an elderly neighbour especially living alone – why not call by for a passing offer of a chat, companionship or a lift to the local library?
The other very important social determinant of disease is alienation. I have not heard anything more apt and moving than this quote from Jimmy Reid:
“Let me right at the outset define what I mean by alienation. It is the cry of men who feel themselves the victims of blind economic forces beyond their control. It's the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the processes of decision-making. The feeling of despair and hopelessness that pervades people who feel with justification that they have no real say in shaping or determining their own destinies”.
We all need to feel involved with our lives and have some control over it. As healthcare professionals we need to take a step back sometimes and remind ourselves of what really matters.
Rob Lawson – personal view.