Archive for the ‘Social Skills’ Category

Service of Medical Impact When Loneliness is not Solitude

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Photo: npr.org

There are plenty of self-help books with titles like “Married…But Lonely.” And loneliness doesn’t just happen to the elderly, although seniors over 80 represent the largest percentage for understandable reasons: Lost hearing, sight, mobility, family and friends and many are isolated because they lack funds to socialize.

I didn’t realize the crucial impact of loneliness made clear in the lead to Emily Holland’s Wall Street Journal article: “Loneliness is hazardous to your health—and more psychologists and doctors are calling for a public-health campaign to fight it.”

In the article, “The Government’s Role in Combating Loneliness –Medical experts say social isolation needs to be seen as a public-health issue,” Holland quotes Brigham Young University professor Julianne Holt-Lundstad: “cumulative data over hundreds of studies with millions of participants provides robust evidence of the importance of social connections for physical health and risk for premature mortality.”

Photo: womansday.com

Studies have shown that “the risk is equal to or greater than major health problems such as obesity.” Dr. Holt-Lundstad presented analyses of data from multiple studies at this summer’s American Psychological Association convention that “found that having greater social connections is associated with a 50% reduced risk of premature death.”

Photo: pinterest.com

According to Holland, an AARP study estimated 44 million adults 45 and up experience chronic loneliness. “In the survey, 35% of respondents said they were chronically lonely, up from 20% in a similar survey a decade ago.” Why? “An increase in single-person households, higher divorce rates and too much focus on social media over in-person communication,” may be some reasons.

Holland reported that loneliness doesn’t get the attention of smoking or obesity but that it is beginning to, noting the AARP public education initiative Connect2Affect. In addition, she mentioned a toll free number seniors can call to get rides via Uber and Lyft in some areas; a 24 hour, free Friendship Line–800-971-0016–sponsored by the Institute on Aging for those 60+ who feel lonely, depressed–even suicidal and programs at some senior living facilities that encourage socializing between generations.

Early detection and encouraging people to seek help are key to turning around the situation. Physicians must learn to question patients and patients must feel comfortable admitting their feelings of involuntary isolation and seclusion.

What is the difference between loneliness and solitude? Do you know people who are surrounded by humans and yet they feel lonely or others who prefer to be alone and say they are happiest that way? Have you heard of effective ways that infirm or financially strapped people of any age can remain involved?

Photo: mysocialstate.com

Service of Fiction

Monday, March 28th, 2016

 

fiction

Reading fiction, “especially stories that take readers inside people’s lives and minds,” improves social skills more than nonfiction, fiction about places or for people who don’t read, Ann Lukits wrote in a news brief about a study she highlighted in The Wall Street Journal.

The study, published in Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience online, found that “reading fictional excerpts about individuals and groups of people heightened activity in a brain system known as the default network,” she wrote. There were 26 men and women aged 19 to 26 in the Harvard study. They read 52 excerpts from novels and articles as they underwent MRI brain scans.

And the significance of the default network? She wrote that for those with diseases that impact social abilities–such as autism or brainschizophrenia–studies have shown a disrupted default network.

“Fiction’s ability to improve social skills–or social cognition–may depend on how well readers’ attention is drawn to other people’s mental states,” wrote Lukits of the researcher’s findings. “Stories containing compelling emotional, social and psychological content may trigger neural changes in the default network, which could translate into enhanced social skills in real life, they suggest.”

I wonder about the significance of such findings. In addition to the tiny sample of participants–and as Lukits also pointed out, the similarity in age of the participants–I think that the MRI scan must have impacted results. If you’ve ever had one, you’ll know what I mean. I had a panic attack the one time I had one. That reaction would surely stimulate some part of my brain that had nothing to do with what I was reading–only where I was reading.

Do you think such studies might nevertheless shed significant clues to help the socially awkward whether or not they have serious conditions? Are they done primarily because of the pressure of publish or perish in academia? Do you have friends and acquaintances who read only nonfiction–or who don’t read–and are their social skills wanting? Do the fiction readers seem to be more socially adept?

publish or perish

 

 

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