The Washington Post recently published an article which highlighted a study that found loneliness can have the same mental and physical repercussions as smoking or diabetes. Often, millennials joke about loneliness, especially around Valentine’s Day, without awareness of both the physical and mental potential damages.
“Loneliness is somebody who feels as though there is nobody to really turn to when a time of need,” Sam Houston State Psychologist Drew Miller, Ph.D., said.
Often, students associate the feeling of loneliness with a sad feeling that comes from being apart from other people. However, this is not the case for chronic loneliness.
Chronic loneliness and feeling alone, although derived from the same word, have two different meanings.
“We all have times where we kind of need to be alone for our wellbeing,” Miller said. “Loneliness comes from a state of feeling isolated.”
Loneliness is also not to be confused with another common illness, depression. Although they have similar side effects, depression can stem from any life situation. Loneliness, on the other hand, tends to stem directly from lack of human contact.
“Depressed people are often lonely, lonely people aren’t always depressed,” Miller said.
Freshman and pre nursing major Jhonny Argumedo explained that he felt less lonely after coming to college.
“Back at home in high school, I was always by myself, I never had a social life,” Argumedo said.
Argumedo is a prime example of what it was like to want to have something else in life other than just homework and quizzes.
“Coming to college, I made so many friends and so many connections in just the little time I’ve been here,” Argumedo said.
However, many people are the opposite, and feel lonelier now than they did under their parents’ roof.
“I think college can be a lonely time for people because for a lot of them, it is their first time being away from home and that itself is an overwhelming experience,” Argumedo said.
Argumedo explained the difference in his social life and how he found organizations that helped him socialize and also give back to the community.
“I joined Project Sunshine because not only did I want to be more social, I also wanted to help families and kids,” Argumedo said. “Along the way it has been very rewarding.”
Miller addressed the issue many millennials face in regards to socializing- their screen. Although it is easier and faster to check in on someone through a text or tweet, Miller said students need the comfort of seeing and interacting face-to-face in order to build a relationship.
“It’s important for people to go beyond the superficial so that they can have genuine connections with others,” Miller said.
Miller also mentioned the importance of how people can prevent chronic loneliness. He explained how it is up to everyone to see what they really want and to communicate that with the people in their lives.
“I think that the first thing is the responsibility of each person to sort of reflect on what their needs truly are when it comes to relationships,” Miller said. “We can all have the intent of wanting to connect, but if we can’t take that risk to interact with people, then that obviously becomes much more challenging.”
Although most people focus on physical health, Miller explained how important mental health is.
“It is one of the most important needs that we have, and is also the easiest to overlook,” Miller said.
Argumedo agreed with this.
“You learn in health class it is not just about physical [health],” Argumedo said. “It’s about physical, mental and emotional health, so people should take all of those into consideration when trying to be physically healthy.”