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When people were forced into social isolation, a light was also shining on another crisis - loneliness.
The antidote to loneliness is accessible to all of us: friendship. The shared global crisis has showed how significant friends are to our day-to-day happiness.
Science shows friendship is critical for our happiness, health, and longevity.
* In the 1970s and 1980s, some epidemiologists and sociologists showed that socially isolated individuals over age 66 had a 30 percent increased risk of early mortality.
* Studies reveal that social connection improves cardiovascular functioning, reduces susceptibility to inflammation and viral disease, sharpens cognition, reduces depression, lowers stress, and even slows biological aging.
Friendship requires at least three things: It should be long-lasting, positive, and cooperative. Friendship nearly always includes a willingness to help, especially in times of crisis.
In short, friendship is creating bonded groups that act as a buffer against life's stresses.
At all stages of life, how we do friendship has to do with our natural desire for sociability and varies from person to person.
Friendship is a lifelong endeavor, although not everyone realizes it. If you only invest in friendships when your family and professional obligations slow, you will be at a disadvantage.
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Loneliness is becoming an "epidemic" and is associated with illnesses like heart disease, dementia, depression, anxiety, and longevity.
Back in 1999, a support group called Bright Point was formed to fill the need of friends. But when people came together, no one talked. It was only after games were introduced as a catalyst that friendships started forming. Later, making meals and exercising was added successfully.
The program is not without challenges. Many lonely people may feel intimidated and won't attend. But designating a space for gathering and activities is a good step toward tackling loneliness.
Studies show that older adults who are lonely see a decline in their thinking abilities, which is rapid if paired with other factors like physical inactivity, anxiety, poor sleep and high blood pressure.
Prolonged social isolation is a kind of mental stress leading to various mental and physical health issues like faster ageing, dementia and cognitive decline. It has also been linked to the factors that lead to Alzheimer’s disease, like a build-up of certain toxic proteins in the brain.