By Mary Slowey
With Valentine’s Day here, thousands of couples across the nation check in to hotels, attend dinner reservations or cuddle up at home, whilst singletons meet up with friends to embrace their single status. However what does Valentine’s Day mean for those not in a relationship and who simply don’t have friends to meet up with?
February 14th, along with the build up to it, can be a day for those alone to feel even more lonely with the bombardment of pink and red displays of teddy bears and roses in every shop and advertisements of affectionate couples blasted all over the TV.
According to the Co-op and the British Red Cross, nine million people across the UK experience feelings of loneliness.
Age UK found that there are 1.2 million chronically lonely older people. However, despite popular belief that loneliness is an issue of the elderly, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that younger adults between the ages of 16 and 24 felt lonely more often than people in older age groups.
Another find for the ONS was that those who are single or widowed were at particular risk of experiencing loneliness more often, indicating that Valentine’s Day could enhance these feelings since it’s an occasion primarily for couples.
Prime Minister Theresa May has said: “For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life.”
Being lonely is not just an unpleasant feeling – it can actually lead to a deterioration in your health. Dr. Holt-Lunstad, a professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, believes that loneliness can be linked to as being as bad for a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day; it is worse for an individual’s health than obesity and is likely to increase a person’s risk of death by 29%.
However things are being done to help tackle loneliness, such as a post-box at St John’s Market in Liverpool city center. The post-boxes have also been in Manchester, Birmingham and London. Red Letter Days have been in charge of this campaign, which is supported by Campaign to End Loneliness, and the Salvation Army.
The project encouraged people to write heart-warming letters to send to strangers to be received today. Red Letter Days’ Alison Vickery said: “For many people, Valentine’s Day is a fun and joyful occasion centering on love, affection and kindness. But for others, Valentine’s Day can exacerbate feelings of isolation and loneliness.”
Remember you’re not alone in feeling lonely and there are many websites such as Patient that list a collection of things to do to help combat these feelings – including exercising, volunteering, doing something you enjoy and contacting your GP.
[Photo or rose courtesy of Laitche, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41380341%5D
[*Office for National Statistics image: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/articles/lonelinesswhatcharacteristicsandcircumstancesareassociatedwithfeelinglonely/2018-04-10%5D