Could Volunteering Be a Cure for Loneliness?
America is experiencing “epidemic levels” of loneliness, according to a new study released by Cigna, a global health service company. Cigna says the study “revealed some alarming findings” about loneliness and how little time most of us spend having meaningful in-person interactions.
Dr. Vivek Murthy, Former Surgeon General spoke out about the loneliness epidemic last fall, before the Cigna study was released, calling loneliness a silent crisis. While he says there could be several possible reasons for the fact that most American adults are lonely. He mentions technology or the culture around masculinity.
Of one thing, Dr. Murthy is certain: loneliness can be deadly.
“It turns out that loneliness is associated with a reduction in your lifespan that is as severe as the lifespan you see with smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” he told CBS This Morning.
Harvard Medical School agrees in its findings published in the journal Heart. In fact, lead researcher, Dr. Nicole Valtorta observed that “Loneliness has already been linked to weaker immune systems and high blood pressure.”
Volunteering Cures Loneliness by Fostering Strong Relationships
Psychology Today recommends volunteering as a way to establish strong relationships. “Working alongside people who feel as strongly as you do about supporting a particular cause creates a path to developing strong relationships with others.” The article mentions that volunteering isn’t just useful for making new friends but also for strengthening existing bonds.
“Volunteering can be a direct and easy way to build your circle of both professional and personal contacts,” says Julie D’Esposito, Operation Warm’s National Volunteer and Event Manager. “Even if someone is shy, volunteers seem to find it easy to relate to each other.”
Volunteering keeps you focused on a task that helps others so it may also be a natural way to reduce social and relational anxiety, one of the biggest barriers to loneliness.
The online community Sixty + Me, mentions an additional way that volunteering may help cure those suffering from loneliness. “They don’t just need someone to be there when they need them. They also need someone to need them.”
Learn how you can volunteer to help children in your community receive a gift of warmth, confidence and hope!