No, this is not a message about space aliens, and I’m not going to tell you a secret. Instead, I want to call your attention to the results of the Cigna Loneliness Study: Surprising, sad but definitely something we nurses need to know!
In case you missed it, the health insurance company, Cigna, announced findings of its “Loneliness Study” back in May. Using the UCLA Loneliness Scale and employing the market research group, Ipsos, 20,000 American adults were sampled.
The results demonstrated that almost half of Americans report “sometimes or always feeling alone or left out,” and that one out of five has “no person they can talk to”. This is not good news and there’s more: Results further demonstrated that the loneliest group was not who you might think. It turns out that members of Generation Z, (18 to 22 year-olds) have an average loneliness score that is nearly 10 points higher than the least lonely group, our Kapuna, those age 72 years and older.
This surprised me. I always thought that older people would suffer from loneliness more than younger people. Don’t we have fewer connections as we out-live our friends and families? The second thought that came to mind was, ‘it’s because of all the time they spend online’. I was ready to blame Gen Z’s reliance on social media for the high prevalence of loneliness. But this study didn’t find a significant difference in loneliness levels between those who use social media often or those who use it infrequently.
BUT, wait, there is another side to this coin: The study found that “People who engage in frequent meaningful in-person interactions have much lower loneliness scores and report better health than those who rarely interact with others face-to-face.” So, it’s not time spent on social media, but lack of direct human contact that is correlated with loneliness.
Significantly, the study demonstrated that getting the right balance of sleep, physical exercise, work, socializing with friends, family and “me time” is connected to lower loneliness scores. To me, this reinforces the importance of self-care and explains why young adults are lonelier than older people! Isn’t practicing self-care something we need to learn as we become adults?
So, after thinking it over, I decided that the Cigna Loneliness Study isn’t as surprising as I first thought and that I wanted to share it with you. Nurses know how important it is for people to spend time with others and to teach – and practice- self care. The more information we have to support us, the better for everyone!
Mahalo for all you do.
With respect & much aloha,
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