A few months ago, I sat in my spare bedroom to write my editor’s letter for the September issue of Women’s Health magazine. As always, I wrote it from the heart – a personal account of my state of mind at that time. The magazine was sent to print and I forgot my words, instead moving onto the next thing on my intimidatingly long to do list.
Several weeks later, a familiar red alert started appearing on the top of my Instagram telling me I’d been tagged in someone’s content. And my direct message in box started filling up. Hundreds of women began telling me they empathised with my words, with some going into moving detail about how lonely and isolated 2020 had left them. A serving MP even contacted me, saying I’d articulated in a few sentences what parliament had struggled to encapsulate when attempting to tackle the growing problem of societal loneliness.
My letter has clearly struck a nerve and unearthed a growing systemic issue that was causing pain and suffering to many.
This hypothesis was backed up when Women’s Health asked you in a detailed survey how you were feeling. Over 2,000 of you replied. The findings were stark – 79% of you feel lonelier now, than you did before the pandemic, which rises to 87% for single people.
So today we launch a new campaign: ‘The Loneliness Remedy.’ This hinges on a simple concept, rooted in the latest research on the significance of social connection: that much as you eat your fruit and veg, plan your at-home workouts and take time out for self-care, working on your ‘social nutrition’ – cultivating meaningful connections and caring for others, to avoid the problem of loneliness – is key to your health.
Our advice? That just as you strive to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, you aim for five socially nutritious interactions every day, too. In doing so, you bolster your ‘social biome’ – a metaphor coined by Jeffrey Hall, Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Kansas, to describe the medley of social interactions we get throughout a day. Much as you support your gut microbiome through eating a diverse range of plants and topping up with fermented foods, the idea is, so a mix of connections will help you to thrive.
Of course, for some of us, this isn’t easy. And, to be clear, this is not a stick to beat yourself with. Rather, it’s something to bear in mind when you’re planning your week and to help you to take a proactive approach when showing up for your social health. You can read up on