We launched the application process for the Crew back in January of this year. This project was inspired by feedback we were getting from our community as well as identifying trends in our own lives from Covid that we felt were lingering. We knew this project would resonate with people but weren’t expecting close to 1,000 people to apply to be a part of the programme. While it was encouraging to see we had struck a chord with people, it was also devastating to see the number of people that needed help.
Loneliness was one of the major themes coming out of the applications. This is backed up by recent research published by the European Commission. A massive 13.7% of Irish people said they feel alone most or all of the time. This makes Ireland now the loneliest country in Europe. That’s tough to read but when you think of the knock on health effects of loneliness then it is even more devastating. The World Health Organisation has identified loneliness as our biggest health threat and the health risks are startling.
According to the National Institute on Aging, the health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Social isolation and loneliness have even been estimated to shorten a person’s life span by as many as 15 years. People who are socially isolated or lonely are more likely to be admitted to nursing homes and the emergency room. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, people who are lonely may get too little exercise and often don’t sleep well, which can increase the risk of stroke (by 32%), heart disease (by 29%), mental health disorders (by 26%) and premature mortality (by 26%), as well as other serious conditions. The University of California San Francisco found that being alone most of the time may contribute to a decline in the ability to perform everyday tasks. 59% were more likely to find daily tasks such as climbing stairs or walking more difficult.
Losing social connections and an authentic community around you has a significant effect on your health, particularly in later life. And the trends aren’t going in the right direction in society. According to a YouGov Friendship Study from 2021, 50% of adults say they have friends but none they consider close. 7% of adults say they do not have anyone who they could call a friend. There are so many factors affecting this, changing family dynamics, housing issues in the developed world and technology addiction are all loosening our ties to those people who should be close in our lives. There are no quick fixes but community initiatives need to be at the forefront for long term preventative health measures for all of us.
We will go into much more detail later in this programme on how to develop detailed plans but short version solutions for now are: get outdoors, being physically active, having a hobby or project, connecting with others in person on a regular basis, connecting with others on a shared passion (can be online).
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