Feelings of loneliness can affect health in various ways. They can cause stress, headache and tightness of the chest (Korrelatie, 2016), as well as depression or (attempts to commit) suicide (Heinricht & Gullone, 2006). Conversely, health problems like a physical impairment, can increase loneliness.
Two types of loneliness: emotional and social
We distinguish between two types of loneliness: social loneliness and emotional loneliness. Social loneliness is a situation in which somebody experiences the lack of people in his or her direct environment (e.g. friends, neighbours, colleagues). Emotional loneliness is a situation in which somebody misses an intimate relation, such as a partner or friend, with whom he or she can talk about personal matters.
Social contacts can mitigate loneliness
Meaningful social contacts can mitigate loneliness. Feelings of loneliness do not always decrease when somebody has more social contacts. It is the quality of the contact that matters. People also feel less lonely, if there is variation in the types of social relationships. Such types include social relationships with family members, relatives, neighbours or friends (Gierveld-de Jong & Van Tilburg, 2007).
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