JACKSON, Miss.- The holidays are supposed to be all about cheer, giving, and celebrations.
Unfortunately, not everyone gets the opportunity to feel those emotions when the Christmas lights start going up.
It’s called social isolation, and the holiday season can be a huge trigger for people who struggle with loneliness.
“It’s a time when our communities give us signals it’s a time to be merry, get together, and celebrate, and truly a time of connection,” said Lisa Marsh Ryerson President of the AARP Foundation.
According to a study published last year in Perspectives on Psychological Science, the health effects of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
“Loneliness is something we perceive, it’s our perception of our experience, whether or not we feel isolated,” said Ryerson.”Isolation is something that we can measure. We do that by talking with someone and looking at the size of their social network or their access to resources and communication in their community.”
Because of this growing problem, AARP has launched the Connect2Affect campaign. A new platform to help end isolation and build the social connections adults aged 50 and older need to thrive.
On the website there is a short test to find out if isolation is a problem for you, along with tools to help you through it.
But help shouldn’t end there. Since the holidays are all about giving to others, you can do your part too.
“Take a moment to pause and think about a family member, loved one, or a neighbor who might feel isolated or lonely, someone you haven’t talked to in a while and give them a call or invite them over,” said Ryerson.
Ryerson said this is a growing public health concern and it is vitally important to bring it out of the shadows in order to get people the resources and help that they need.