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Loneliness and isolation on the rise around the holidays

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Edwin J. Viera

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(Connecticut News Service) As festive as the holidays can be, isolation and loneliness peak at this time of year. 

A 2022 survey finds 55 percent of Americans experience increased loneliness and sadness around the holidays. Some reasons for these feelings include not being around loved ones, seasonal depression, and grief. 

Deb Bibbins, founder and CEO of For All Ages, said images of togetherness at this time of year play a role in this growing problem.

"The reality is that these images represent an unachievable possibility of connection for many people," said Bibbins, "which can lead to feelings of sadness that they won't be able to achieve the level of happiness portrayed. Which, in turn, results in disinterest in being social, and finally, results in loneliness."

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She said reaching out for positive social connections is important. Whether it's calling friends or visiting family, these can have tremendous effects. 

The benefits include an increased sense of well-being and better health. Other options like volunteering can give people a sense of purpose, which can eradicate loneliness too.

But one of the hardest steps for trying to leave holiday-related loneliness behind is the first one - acknowledging it. This can enable people to move forward since this can go beyond feelings of inadequacy. 

Bibbins said isolation and loneliness can have health impacts

"Loneliness is a root cause of anxiety, of depression," said Bibbins. "It can be a root cause of substance abuse and even suicide. And, for older adults, loneliness increases the probability of having a stroke, of developing heart disease, and even developing dementia."

Anyone suffering from suicidal thoughts should contact 988 or find mental health treatment options. 

Outside of the holidays, the U.S. has been experiencing an epidemic of loneliness and isolation

Part of the National Strategy to Advance Social Connection includes strengthening social infrastructure in local communities and reforming digital environments.