Medical newspaper online, 10.10.2019
Mental Health Week
At the start of Mental Health Week, doctors warn that prolonged social isolation can significantly increase the risk of mental illness.
By Thomas Hommel
Loneliness increases the risk of mental illness by 2.5 times. (Icon)
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BERLIN. Doctors have called for more efforts to get more and more people out of social isolation.
"The feeling of loneliness is widespread and affects all population groups," said Alexian Berlin-Weissensee, St. Petersburg Medical Director. Iris Hauth, speaking to reporters in Berlin on Thursday.
Often, the feeling of loneliness is only temporary, for example after a change of school, education in a foreign city or separation, Hauth said. Loneliness can be a "part of a person" personality. From this point of view, there is no reason to pathologize loneliness in general.
"But it can also mean stress and be a starting point for mental illness," the doctor said at the start of the 13th Berlin and the entire National Mental Health Week.
Action encourages more understanding
As part of the campaign, which runs through October 20, a broad coalition of associations and self-help groups seek to inform and promote relationships of loneliness and mental distress.
More than 800 events are planned across 60 countries in 60 cities, said Professor Wolfgang Gaebel, president of the Action Alliance. Every human being can become mentally ill under certain circumstances.
Mental suffering is "associated" with diabetes or cardiovascular disease. "Doctors need to look after these diseases and treat them."
According to studies, every second woman and every third man in Germany suffers from a mental disorder during their lifetime. Not rarely does social isolation play a role.
Many single-person households exacerbate the problem
Hauth referred to studies according to which one in ten participants between the ages of 35 and 74 suffers from loneliness. Statistically, there is a strong sense of loneliness in young adults around the age of 35, at the age of 60 and among the very elderly.
Those who feel lonely for a long time are up to 2.5 times more likely to develop depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The growing number of single-person households could exacerbate the problem, Hauth warned. In Germany, it is currently estimated that 41 per cent of all people lived in so-called family homes.
Stable social relationships were the best protection for protecting mental and therefore physical health, said Hauth, who is also a board member of the German Society for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Psychosomatics and Neurology. In parallel with the Mental Health Week launched Thursday, the Green Loop campaign.
The aim is to intensify social debate on mental health issues and combat stigma and discrimination.
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