The other face of Valentine’s Day: The Loneliness Epidemic
For many, Valentine’s Day is a day to feel loved and appreciated. Sadly, for others it is a reminder of how lonely they feel. Along with health and financial implications, COVID-19 has brought an epidemic of loneliness. Constantly under lockdowns and quarantine, many are finding it difficult to connect with others. This state of social and physical isolation has a significant impact on ones’ wellbeing. It is vital that everyone maintains contact with their loved ones.
This Valentine’s Day, Rural Doctor’s Foundation urges everyone to check in with all those loved ones in your life. Particularly, those who have gone out of their way to bring a smile to your face.
Valentine’s Day reminds us of the importance of all the relationships in our lives, whether it be with partners, family members, friends, or colleagues.
A lonelier Australia
The Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey found approximately 30% of Australians reported an episode of loneliness between 2001 and 2009. This increased significantly with COVID-19. Today, over 50% of the population report they feel lonelier than pre-COVID.
A single instance of loneliness may instigate a deeper appreciation of friends and family. However, extended periods of loneliness can lead to increased heart problems, mental illness, and drug misuse.
Many rural and remote communities have been facing social isolation well before the start of the pandemic. With neighbours typically separated by long distances, rural communities are no stranger to social isolation. Studies conducted in 2020 revealed a strong association between the rurality of a place of residence and the feeling of loneliness in older citizens.
Tips on tackling loneliness
Attending Men’s Sheds, volunteering for a local charity, taking on a new hobby, sharing meals and making time to join support groups are a few ways in which you can tackle feelings of loneliness. The online yoga classes offered by The Yoga Partnership (funded by Rural Doctors Foundation) have been shown to effective in combating loneliness and building a sense of connection and community.
For those located wanting to support rural communities, you could consider hosting Zoom meetings about topics of interest and hobbies and advertise it on Facebook community pages. One topic of interest is an introduction to technology and video call services. You may also consider donating an old phone and tablet.
Caring for our Rural Doctors
Rural doctors care deeply for their local community and ensure that all health needs are attended to. Despite this work being incredibly rewarding, it is easy for doctors to become consumed. Some doctors have left family and friends to come and work in rural communities, others don’t have time to catch up with family and friends, due to work pressures.
As doctors work to protect our mental health, it is important that we check in on their wellbeing as well. Perhaps you can take the time out of your day to send them an appreciation card, or simply ask how they have been holding up.
Leave us a comment to let us know how much you appreciate your rural doctor, your neighbour, a special friend or a family member.
In the age of the epidemic, make a vow to look out for yourself and those around you. To connect, to care, to comfort. Through deciding to make that single phone call, you help support the wellbeing of both yourself and the person you care about.