The woman on the other end of the phone spoke cheerfully spring and 81st birthday last week. “Who made to celebrate, Beryl?” Asked Alison, whose job was to provide a kind ear.
“No, I,” And with that, Beryl joy turned to despair.
His voice began to quaver as she acknowledged that he had been alone at home, not only on his birthday, but for days. The phone conversation was the first time he had spoken in over a week.
About 10,000 similar calls come in weekly to an office building unpretentious in this coastal city on the border of northwest England, home to Silver line helpline a call center 24 hours for adults older they are seeking to cover a basic need contact with other people.
Loneliness, Emily Dickinson described as “the horror of not be recognized,” it is a quiet devastation. But in Britain, which is increasingly being viewed as something it more :. A serious public health problem deserving of public funds and national attention
Working with local governments and the National Health Service programs to mitigate the loneliness have emerged in cities and towns dozens. Even fire departments have been trained to inspect homes not only for fire safety, but for signs of social isolation.
“There has been an explosion of public awareness here of local authorities to the Department of Health to the media,” said Paul Cann, chief executive of Age UK Oxfordshire and one of the founders of the campaign to end loneliness, five-year -old group based in London. “Loneliness has to be everybody’s business.”
Researchers have found evidence linking loneliness to physical illness and functional and cognitive impairment. As a predictor of early death, loneliness overshadows obesity. “The profound effects on the health of solitude and independence is a critical public health problem,” said Dr. M. Carla Perissinotto, a geriatrician at the University of California, San Francisco. “It is not medically or ethically acceptable to ignore older adults who feel lonely and marginalized.”
In Britain and the United States, about one in three people over 65 living alone, and in the United States, half of those over 85 live alone. Studies in both countries show that the prevalence of loneliness among people over 60 years from 10 percent to 46 percent.
While public, private and voluntary sectors in Britain are mobilizing to face loneliness, researchers are deepening their understanding of their biological bases. In an article published earlier this year in the journal cell neuroscientists Massachusetts Institute of Technology have identified a brain region that they believe creates the sensation of loneliness. The region, known as the dorsal raphe nucleus, or DRN, is best known for its link with depression.
Kay M. Tye and his colleagues found that when mice were housed together, dopamine neurons in the DRN were relatively inactive. But after the mice were isolated for a short period, the activity of these neurons increased when mice were reunited with other mice.
“This is the first time we have found a cell substrate for this experience,” Tye, assistant professor at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT and lead author of the paper. “And we saw the change after 24 hours of isolation.”
John Cacioppo, a psychology professor at the University of Chicago and director of the University Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, has been studying loneliness since the 1990s said that loneliness is a sign of aversion like thirst, hunger or pain.
“Denying feel lonely no more sense to deny that feel hungry,” he said. However, the same word “only” has a negative connotation, Cacioppo, indicating the social weakness or an inability to fend for oneself said.
Tacit stigma of loneliness is amply evident during calls to the silver line. Most people call for advice on, for example, roasting a turkey. Many call more than once a day. A woman rings every hour to ask the time. Only rarely someone speak frankly about loneliness.
However, the urge to call services like silver line is a healthy, Cacioppo said.
On a recent afternoon, Tracey, an adviser Silver Line, heard a caller in his 80s he embarked on a nostalgic journey through your list of favorite movies. The next call Tracey serenaded with “Oh, what a beautiful morning” on his harmonica.
Once the harmonica player had hung, a call came through a man of 88 years with a flood of memories to share: dogs that had owned ships had captained London during the bombing. Tracey, a former nurse, listened patiently for 30 minutes.
“It can be really fascinating when people talk about things like London during the bombing,” she said after the call ended. “It is important to remember the people have led rich lives.”
Silver Line workers leave the caller mention if you feel alone. Still, the counselors are trained to listen to signals unhappy isolation, and gently steer the conversation accordingly, perhaps by offering to link the caller to a silver line friend, a volunteer who makes weekly phone calls or write letters to those upon request.
Sophie Andrews, executive director of the Silver Line, said he was surprised by the explosion of calls shortly after the service began operating almost three years ago. Blackpool call center now receives about 1,500 calls a day.
Andrews said he was more concerned not about those who called silver line, but those who were too depressed by his isolation to pick up the phone. “We need to inform people who are the most difficult to reach,” he said.
Cacioppo praises efforts as silver line, however, it warns that the problem of loneliness is nuanced and solutions are not as obvious as it might seem. That is, a line call live can help reduce the feeling of loneliness temporarily, but is not likely to reduce the levels of chronic loneliness.
In her research, Cacioppo has shown that loneliness affects several key bodily functions, at least in part through over-stimulation of the body’s response to stress. chronic loneliness, his work has been shown, is associated with increased levels of cortisol, a hormone important to stress, as well as increased vascular resistance, which can increase blood pressure and decrease blood flow to vital organs .
Cacioppo’s research has also shown that the warning signals are activated in the brain by loneliness affect the production of white blood cells; this may affect the immune system’s ability to fight infections.
Only in recent years that loneliness been examined by a doctor, rather than psychological or sociological lens. Perissinotto, the University of California, San Francisco geriatrician, decided to study loneliness when she began to feel that there were factors that affect the health of their patients was failing to capture.
Using data from a national survey of older adults in 2012 Perissinotto analyzed the relationship between the results of solitude and self-perceived health in people over 60 years of 1,604 participants in the study, 43 percent reported feelings of loneliness, and these individuals had significantly higher rates of downward mobility, difficulty performing routine daily activities, and death during the six years of follow-up. The association of loneliness with mortality remained significant even after adjusting for age, economic status, depression and other common health problems.
Perissinotto is also interested in examining the relationship between loneliness and suicidal thoughts, as there has been little research in this area. She hopes to study Line friendship, 24-hour, toll-free, online call of solitude led by the Institute of Aging in San Francisco, which is also a suicide prevention hotline.
Although much of the research in solitude is carried out in the United States, Britain remains far ahead to address the problem.
“In the US, there is little recognition in terms of public health initiatives or the average person recognize that loneliness is related to health,” said Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology at the University Brigham Young, whose studies also link loneliness to deteriorating health.
Age UK, a similar AARP in the United States organization, oversees a number of programs aimed at reducing loneliness and coordinates its efforts with the fire departments to look for signs of loneliness and isolation in homes entering .
Another charity, Open age, runs about 400 activities each week in central London – the sewing circle, discussions of current events, reading clubs and exercises and computer classes held in church halls , sports centers, housing projects – and their employees also visit people in their homes to try to get away from home.
“We try to find out what is what is preventing them from leaving the house,” said Helen Leech, director of the organization.
Men and women differ greatly in how to deal with loneliness. Seventy percent of calls to the silver line are women.
“We have this kind of thing masculine pride,” said Mike Jenn, 70, a retired charity worker living in London. “We say, ‘I can take care of myself. I do not need to talk to anyone,” and is a complete fallacy. The communication helps not kill us. “
Jenn runs a “shed Man” in the district of Camden Town in London, which aims to bring the older men together in a more familiar and comfortable environment, working side by side in a carpentry workshop. The concept started in Australia and has spread to Britain :. There are now more than 300 men sheds throughout England, Scotland and Ireland
Pearshouse Keith, 70, a retired school, they discovered the men shed near his home after moving to London from Norfolk, England, in 2007, and recognizing that he was lonely.
“I was a little anxious going into a crowded room,” said Pearshouse, talking amid the noise created by a table saw, router and around the Camden Town shed, a workshop of 700 square feet in a local community center.
Pearshouse, who had never worked with wood until he discovered the shed Men showed a visitor a jar of delicate wood that was ending. The parts produced are gratifying, he said, but not as rewarding as human connections he has made.
While Pearshouse is still far from sharing every little pain and discomfort with his friends in the shed, he said his life would be much emptier now feel no fashion shoulder to shoulder trust has come to know. As he spoke, he took the cap of the bottle, and gave him a burst light, which means a perfect fit.
New York Times