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Isolated Parents Are Unhealthy

Loneliness Breeds Wide Concerns

Isolated Parents Are Unhealthy

By Sean Zucker –

It’s true that parents sacrifice a ton for their kids. At a minimum, they give up their time, money, sleep and a lot of freedom for the opportunity to raise children. Of course, most would probably say that the effort is more than worth it, but lingering side effects of parenthood still remain–with some doing serious damage to mental health. In fact, one study recently found that the majority of parents regularly feel isolated and lonely.

Researchers at the Ohio State University College of Nursing surveyed 1,005 moms and dads to see how the strains of parenting impacted them mentally. One finding that jumped out to the team was how childrearing seemed to sequester parents from much of the social world. In fact, just under 40 percent stated that they had no one to support them in their parenting role while nearly 80 percent wished for a way to connect with other parents outside of the home and work. Lead researcher Kate Gawlik, an associate clinical professor at the university, pointed out how remote work amplifies these feelings.

“It’s pretty obvious that there is a huge difference between a virtual meeting and being in person,” she reported. “You miss a lot of those small interactions that you’d have in the hallway. Just a lot more of that personal touch has been eliminated and in many regards, it’s just never been infiltrated back into our society.”

As a result, nearly two-thirds of the parents surveyed reported that the demands of parenthood sometimes or frequently caused them to feel isolated and lonely. Unsurprisingly, almost the same percentage, 62 percent to be exact, said they felt burned out by their responsibilities as a parent. It’s a revelation that can have serious and widespread negative health influences.

“Loneliness has been shown to affect both your physical and mental health,” Gawlik added. “So, anything from cardiovascular disease to depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, even your immune system can be affected when you’re lonely. In fact, one study showed if you are in social isolation for a prolonged amount of time, it’s equivalent to smoking about 15 cigarettes a day.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the health risks of loneliness are particularly high for those over 50, stressing that social isolation significantly increases an individual’s chances of premature death from all causes. In fact, this risk may rival the impact of not just smoking but obesity and physical inactivity as well. The CDC also notes that social isolation can increase the risk of dementia by as much as 50 percent. This is on top of a 29 percent uptick in heart disease risk and a 32 percent increased risk of stroke.

One caveat to the Ohio State findings is that parenting is undoubtedly a demanding gig, making the solution to this widespread loneliness unclear. The study’s author suggested the answer lies in self-care and making deliberate efforts to reach out to other struggling parents.

“To have somebody that you can relate to and that feeling of connection that somebody else is dealing with what you are dealing with can be so powerful when it comes to combating feelings of loneliness,” Gawlik explained.





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