Chat; talk; gossip; yak; chit-chat; natter – the words for communicating with another person are endless but how important is talking to our health and wellbeing?

We are constantly ‘connected’ to our mobile devices and I have lost count of the number of times I have almost been walked into by people in the street reading or speaking on their phones and I am sure you will have experienced that too!

Being a health professional I am always interested in the latest research evidence on a wide range of issues.  One issue that is on the increase across the age range is loneliness and recent research has shown that loneliness and social isolation can be as harmful to your health as smoking (Holt-Lundstad 2015). The importance of feeling connected and being part of a family, community and network of friends, in relation to mortality was recognised by Sir Michael Marmot in 2010.

With an aging population this issue will only increase, however there are organisations working towards reducing this. One example is ‘The Campaign to End Loneliness’ which was launched in 2011 and is working towards reducing the health threat of loneliness in older age and works with partner organisations. They are not only working with individuals but working towards building the research evidence base to offer to policy makers and practitioners which is an excellent resource. A link to this can be found below.

It is equally important for our young people to be able to talk too however this is increasingly becoming an issue with organisations such as ‘Childline’ reporting that they cannot keep up with demand. There are of course, a wide range of reasons for this however isolation and bullying are two of the reasons reported for this increase. They have a lot of great resources available online specifically designed for young people and a ‘Need to Talk?’ section being one of them.

Men are renowned for being a ‘hard to reach’ group when generally unlike women who are more comfortable to share their worries and concerns with their friends, men do not! It is, as a result campaigns such as ‘Movember’ have been established. Movember raises awareness for prostate and testicular cancer and now mental health and suicide prevention. This campaign has grown globally and is a fantastic way to not only raise much needed research funding, raise awareness, promote health, prevent ill health but to encourage men to talk and support one another. Another example is ‘Men’s Sheds’ which are popping up all over the country with Scotland having 50 active sheds and 39 more in development. Each shed is unique to the community but all are supporting men to come together in a wide variety of activities including; cooking, DIY, gardening, prostate cancer, suicide and much more.

There are positives and negatives to the increase in social media but it is safe to say that it has significantly changed the way we all communicate and some argue that there is a loss of social skills as a result. Others suggest that it has provided an opportunity to engage globally with a wide range of people, businesses, campaigns etc. The bottom line is we all need to talk, be listened to, be understood and feel valued.

What have your personal experiences been – negative or positive?

 

Useful Links:

The Campaign to End Loneliness

http://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/

Family Lives Organisation

http://www.familylives.org.uk/

Childline – Cyberbullying

https://www.childline.org.uk/info-advice/bullying-abuse-safety/types-bullying/online-bullying/

NSPCC

https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/child-abuse-and-neglect/bullying-and-cyberbullying/

Movember

https://uk.movember.com

Scottish Men’s Sheds Organisation

http://scottishmsa.org.uk/

 

References

Holt-Lunstad J, TB, Layton JB. 2010. Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS Medicine 7 (7) http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1000316

Marmot, M. 2010. Fair Society, Healthy Lives, the Marmot Review (The Marmot Review: London) http://www.instituteofhealthequity.org/projects/fair-society-healthy-lives-the-marmot-review