The UK campaign to end loneliness was launched during the pandemic but still applies and our nation are not alone in being concerned.
In May 2023, the US Surgeon General launched a campaign warning that his country was facing an epidemic of loneliness. Highlighting the wider risks this brings, to psychological wellbeing and physical health.
He described loneliness as similar to hunger or thirst, a warning sign that we need something to survive. US research has shown an increased risk of premature death from loss of social connection, on a par with smoking, or obesity.
The Medical Outcome
Feeling isolated triggers a cascading stress response, which affects the immune system. This impinges on many parts of our body, not least our skin.
Research in 2022 evaluated dermatological cases and found increases in outbreaks of psoriasis, eczema, or vitiligo, linked to isolation and stress response. They also noticed higher incidence of shorter term conditions, such as contact dermatitis.
They concluded that the impact of Covid-19 was greater than just those infected. An impact which was heightened during the pandemic but has always existed and still does.
The pandemic understandably led many people to reduce the size of their social circles. There is a hangover from this, at all ages but particularly amongst older people, where they grew used to not going out.
Working practices have changed and mobility increased, reducing friendly relationships at work. An increase in single living achieves the same at home, whether by choice, or a change in family circumstances.
Social media was meant to connect society and does but can have adverse affects. People become too absorbed and communicate less directly, or continue to focus on devices when they are interacting with others.
For some, the online world can increase loneliness by making them more socially anxious, a position which is then exacerbated by reduced contact.
A Helping Hand
Spotting those who are lonely may seem easy and could be but not always. As with any psychological condition, people can be adept at disguising the problem.
Being encouraged to spend time with those they know will help, as can new contacts, with no better way to make them than looking for ways to assist one another. A human trait that we are born with and should use.
If you know someone with a skin condition, or other health issue which is worsening, worth thinking whether isolation could be adding to the load.
Doing so can help to break the cycle and lower levels of dermatological treatment. We are always here for you when treatment is required but equally happy if the need can be reduced by any helpful means.