Some people try to fill the void of loneliness by making friends on the internet. It sounds like the perfect substitute, but Facebook can't substitute for real face time. Unfortunately, it can actually make loneliness worse. One loneliness expert named John T. Cacioppo--director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago and a leading authority on the subject--says that "using social networking as a substitute for human contact can be like eating celery when you're hungry. It makes you feel better for a short while, but it isn't real nourishment, so you get hungrier in the long run."
And one thing that's scary is that loneliness has links to serious medical problems. Cacioppo says that "more than half of the people responding in the survey said they were in poor health and they were lonely. People sleep more poorly exercise less, eat more fats and sugars, and are more anxious when they lonely than when they are not...illness and diability can leave people more isolated and lonely."
So what is important to help keep you from being lonely? The survey says that people who are spiritual are less lonely percentage wise. And people who volunteer. Cacioppo's prescription for happiness: "People who need social connections should think about being alone in the same way a person with high blood pressure thinks about salt." But volunteering is not a guarantee, since some people who volunteer just don't seem to find connections with others. The antidote to loneliness IS social connections and a circle of intimates, but establishing them can be a trial.
How lonely are you? Answer these questions with 1=never 2=rarely 3=sometimes 4=always
Scoring: Add up your responses. An average loneliness score is 20. 25 and higher reflects a high level of loneliness. 30 or higher reflects a very high level of loneliness.
- How often do you feel unhappy doing so many things alone?
- How often do you feel you have no one to talk to?
- How often do you feel you cannot tolerate being so alone?
- How often do you feel as if no one understands you?
- How often do you find yourself waiting for people to call or write?
- How often do you feel completely alone?
- How often do you feel unable to reach out and communicate with those around you?
- How often do you feel starved for company?
- How often do you feel it is difficult for you to make friends?
- How often do you feel shut out and excluded by others?