The epidemic of unwanted loneliness is getting worse at Christmas

The epidemic of unwanted loneliness is getting worse at Christmas

Social norms dictate that Christmas is celebrated as a family. Advertisements and movies have instilled the stereotype that all families are perfect, happy and well-off, and that this holiday season is a time to celebrate together. However, anything that departs from these clichés can also cause deep discomfort. Especially for people suffering from unwanted loneliness, an epidemic of modern societies that affects 13.4% of the Spanish population.


Among those affected, 22.9% say that they feel lonely throughout the day, and one in ten (10.2%) indicate that they complain more about this problem on special dates such as Christmas, when family and social gatherings prevail, according to State Observatory data. Unwanted isolation, which also shows that those affected have lived, on average, in this situation for six years.

The causes of unwanted loneliness are related to the aging of the population and new ways of living together and communicating, along with changes in family models and values. It can be said that although it affects people of all ages, it especially affects teenagers, young adults, and the elderly. It is also more prevalent among women (14.8% compared to 12.1% among men), immigrants and people with disabilities. Loneliness can result from traumatic experiences such as death, unemployment, separation, extremely stressful situations, or dependency. The issue is diverse.

“The social norm is that you enjoy Christmas as a family, but there are people who don't, others who have been removed from their family nucleus, such as members of the LGBTBI group, or who misbehave with their 'relative' children, so the feeling of loneliness is unwanted on these dates. It can cause “anxiety, stress, a feeling of failure and emptiness,” explains Sacramento Benazo Hernandez, coordinator of the Loneliness Committee at the Platform for the Elderly and Pensioners (PMP).

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In addition, it also happens that many grandparents can only see their loved ones – children and grandchildren – once or twice during the entire Christmas period, “and they are fine during that period but not so well the rest of the days.” There are also people who have lost a loved one and remember them particularly on these dates, or are sick or in need and miss the way they used to celebrate Christmas. “Festivals have this other side of the coin,” says Peñazo Hernandez.

Unwanted loneliness can have mental health repercussions (sadness and depression), affect self-care (stable sleep, smoking, unhealthy diets, irregular schedules) or lead to cognitive impairment, which is exacerbated in older people who are not They have a lot of social or family activities. Relationships as they wish. For older adults, unwanted loneliness leads to greater physical and emotional decline, and an increased risk of falls, hospitalization, and institutionalization.

Faced with this reality, experts and organizations of older people call for a comprehensive approach that unites the efforts of different institutions, similar to countries such as Japan or the United Kingdom.

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