Lonely people are dangerous

Loneliness makes you sick - "Man was not born to be a hermit"

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Everyone in Switzerland feels lonely, as federal figures from 2017 show. Thomas Ihde is a psychiatrist and President of Pro Mente Sana, the organization that works for people with mental health problems. He says how he meets loneliness in practice.

Thomas Ihde

President of the Board of Trustees at Pro Mente Sana

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Dr. med. Thomas Ihde is chief psychiatrist at the regional hospital center fmi in the Bernese Oberland and president of the board of trustees at Pro Mente Sana.

SRF News: There are studies that loneliness is the deadliest disease. It is as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Is that correct?

Thomas Ihde: Yes, these are newer dates. But you have to be careful because there are health booms. But the data show relatively clearly that loneliness or feeling lonely is a very relevant health factor, not only for mental health, but also for physical health.

When we are in contact with people, there are changes at the hormonal level.

Why is loneliness harmful?

We humans are not born to be hermits. We need a certain amount of stimulation. When we are in contact with people, there are changes at the hormonal level and at the level of the messenger substances. All of this is good for your health.

Can one prove loneliness at the hormonal level in the body?

Yes it is. The relationship between mother and child or father and child immediately after the birth is controlled purely by hormones and is vital for the infant.

According to surveys, young people often feel lonely. Why is that?

In principle, two different characteristics have to be observed here. There is feeling lonely. This feeling can exist with people who are in a room full of people or who have seven best friends, but still feel very lonely at a certain stage in their life.

The population needs to be made aware that loneliness is very unhealthy.

In addition, there is loneliness in the sense of being effectively lonely, no longer having any social contacts. On the other hand, there are programs in England. It has been noticed that elderly people live in the city centers and have fewer than two encounters with people per week.

When people come to you as a psychiatrist and you feel they are lonely, how do you treat them?

As I said, you have to make a distinction. Feeling lonely is common with us, and this is evident in depressive illnesses. People become very sensitive in contact and have the feeling that they are being rejected from the outside. This is where depression is treated. It is also about making social contacts more often and of course creating situations where contact is possible.

There is a Minister for Solitude in the UK. Do you have to institutionalize loneliness like that?

I think the topic should be more embedded in social structures. But you have to see that we have a slightly different situation in Switzerland than in England. The feeling of loneliness is also very common in Switzerland. But there are fewer people with us than in England who have very little social contact. The old age group is also less pronounced. We have stronger social networks, but they are also changing. Perhaps we too will have to support people institutionally in the future.

What could this institutional support look like?

For example, there are offers at Pro Senectute in which people visit older people at home. The population needs to be made aware that loneliness is very unhealthy and that people suffer from it, including the feeling of loneliness. It could be a social act to stop by for a cup of coffee at your block neighbor, who you know has no contacts.

The interview was conducted by Monika Glauser.

srf / lin; imhm

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  • Comment from Beni Fuchs (Beni Fuchs)
    'God' created the world because 'he' was lonely - therefore: of all ailments, loneliness is the worst. Those who achieve spiritual maturity have no problems with loneliness - we come alone, we go alone, so we should also be able to endure loneliness in the here and now ... But those who do not achieve this maturity suffer from it. The main cause of depression is loneliness. It is therefore surprising to treat this with medication. Healing only works with affection, hugs, good sex ...
    Agree agree to the comment
  • Comment from Theresia Weber (Resi)
    What can trigger the feeling of loneliness in old age? For many years 150% employment through work, work, family. Suddenly one gets older (old), everything and everyone is gone. You're alone and haven't had time to prepare. You don't know what to do with yourself. Then you have the strength, or not, to no longer live "outside", but to realize your inner life. A challenge, but a wonderful loneliness.
    Agree agree to the comment
  • Comment from Beppie Hermann (A right green)
    In my opinion, the title is next to it, loneliness doesn't make you sick, feeling alone is something completely different! I come to an agreement with Alessandro Orlando. I'm well over 70 and love solitude, enjoy it, especially in connection with nature, because I can relax from contact with people. For me, loneliness means a breeding ground for thoughts, creativity, passions, freedoms and also a form of independence and challenge.
    Agree agree to the comment
    1. answer from Theresia Weber (Resi)
      Beppie Hermann, totally share your opinion. Am alone. My choice. However, NEVER feel lonely. The feeling of loneliness arises because you no longer feel connected to other people and nature.
      Agree agree to the comment
    2. answer from Beni Fuchs (Beni Fuchs)
      Ms. Herrmann, that depends on mental maturity, whoever can deal with loneliness has somehow got 'it'. However, a large part of humanity is not ready and suffers from it. Loneliness can also mean great happiness for a mature mind (see Buddha), but for this one must be able to free oneself from the 'external constraints'. Those who cannot cope with loneliness inevitably end up in depression. Better a hug than a 'medi'! Conclusion: 'Free Hugs' for everybody ;-)
      Agree agree to the comment
    3. Show answers

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