U.K Prime Minister Theresa May recently appointed a governmental minister to tackle loneliness, one of the key indicators of depression and poor social wellness. At The Banyans, our comprehensive therapy model is based on the Dimensions of Wellness, in which one of these dimensions is social wellness: the human need for connection with others.

An article in The New York Times explains that the appointment of Tracey Crouch as the Minister for Loneliness comes following the Cox commission – a nation-wide investigation into the severity of loneliness among the British population. According to the 2017 Commission findings, over nine million of Britain’s sixty-five million citizens often feel lonely[i].

In appointing a minister over this “nationwide epidemic”, the British government hopes it can minimize some of the health risks associated with isolation, such as depression, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cognitive decline and higher risk of suicide[ii]. Research has shown that prolonged isolation and feelings of loneliness increased the body’s stress response, while decreasing it’s immune response abilities[iii].

Engagement in programs targeted towards university students and senior citizens are a major focus of the Minister’s role[iv]. One organization that will benefit from the change is Open Age, a British organization that runs over 400 community events each week to encourage social connection and wellbeing[v].

It is not only the United Kingdom experiencing such a decline in social wellness and connection. Inspired by the UK Movement, The Australian Coalition to End Loneliness aims to address Australia’s own battle against loneliness and social isolation. Partnering with universities, volunteer organizations, churches and local councils, The Australian Coalition to End Loneliness provides resources and access to local programs to people feeling disconnected from society.

Senior psychologist at The Banyans Health and Wellness, Peter Hayton, explains that loneliness is different to depression. “Loneliness is a variety of negative feelings that arise when an individual’s innate need to belong is not met. When people feel like they are not contributing to a group, or that they do not “fit in”, they may feel sad, isolated, dejected and fatigued.” He compares this to depression, which is where you feel low most of the time despite external circumstances.

Peter suggests a variety of ways people can combat feelings of loneliness. “As with any path of recovery, the first step is recognizing that something is not right and wanting to change it. Think of the feelings of loneliness like a little flashing light saying, “You are not designed to live like this.”

Learning to engage in healthy social interactions will be a necessary step in breaking the cycle of loneliness. Peter encourages you to seek help from a professional counselor or other therapist to learn tactics that may help overcome social anxiety and/or isolation.

“The dimensions of wellness are interconnected,” Peter explains. “If one dimension is lacking, it is likely to bring many of the other dimensions down with it. This is one reason why loneliness, a symptom of poor social wellness, is associated with increased health risks, a symptom of poor physical wellness.”

The Banyans Health and Wellness Residence is a private, comprehensive treatment facility for those experiencing health and wellness challenges, whether it be loneliness, depression, anxiety, trauma, grief, and more. In working through issues of isolation, The Banyans operates a program that is enhanced by the connectiveness and social cohesion within a residential community. For more information about the benefits of residential communities, take a look at this article.

Our team of highly qualified health and wellness professionals are dedicated to equipping you with the tools you need to overcome your challenges and live a life full of joy. If you are someone you love would benefit from a residential program like The Banyans, please call us for a confidential discussion on 1300 BANYAN (1300 226 926), email us at wellness@thebanyans.com.au or submit an online enquiry here.

[i] Yeginsu, C. (2018). U.K. Appoints a Minister for Loneliness. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/17/world/europe/uk-britain-loneliness.html [Accessed 27 Feb. 2018].

[ii] Hafner, K. (2016). Researchers Confront an Epidemic of Loneliness. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/06/health/lonliness-aging-health-effects.html?action=click&contentCollection=Europe&module=RelatedCoverage&region=EndOfArticle&pgtype=article [Accessed 27 Feb. 2018].

[iii] As above.

[iv] Yeginsu, C. (2018).

[v] Hafner, K. (2016).