Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
QUESTION: I went through a divorce last year and moved back to my hometown to try to start over, but my family isn’t here anymore and I feel alone and depressed. What’s wrong with me?
— Cecilia N., Columbus, Ohio
ANSWER: Nothing is wrong with you, Cecilia; you’re just lonely. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to overcome that feeling of isolation, and it’s important for your health and happiness that you take action right away. Loneliness is not an unexpected response considering the big upheavals in your life. In fact, a recent study by a health insurance company found that according to the UCLA Loneliness Scale, most adult Americans today experience loneliness with some regularity.
Loneliness can lead to depression, inactivity, cardiovascular problems, decreased memory function, loss of self-esteem, alcohol and drug abuse, and plain old bad decision-making. In fact, a Brigham Young University study found that loneliness is associated with a significantly increased risk of early mortality, so let’s nip this in the bud.
>> Tip No. 1: Put down the remote and get active. Start with a new pair of running/walking shoes and then find a local group to head out with. We Googled “Walking Groups Columbus OH” and the first website had consolidated over 60 websites of walking groups and other gatherings of like-minded folks, from “Babes in the Woods — Outdoor Adventures for Women” to get-togethers for drinking Chinese tea.
>> Tip No. 2: Go with who you know. If you’re from there, you must know someone who you went to school with or a favorite teacher who’s still around. Who organizes class reunions? Give them a call and arrange to meet for lunch. Go visit your old schools and volunteer.
>> Tip No. 3: Give yourself time to make new friends. You probably are meeting new people every day through work, volunteering or in the neighborhood. Be friendly; say hello, and ask people about themselves. Reach out, and folks will respond.
In the meantime, stay in touch with friends and family around the country; you don’t want to let old ties fade.