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Lend an ear to lessen 'loneliness epidemic'

The article (The loneliness epidemic; Oct 15) was insightful.

While an illness that is seen can be easily detected and treated, loneliness is not clearly seen.

It is even more invisible when a lonely individual projects a cheerful disposition and is not willing to share what ails him.

Sometimes, loneliness leads to angst and bitterness, and this may progress to sudden outbursts of anger or antisocial behaviour. Close friends and loved ones may be shocked when they see such behaviour in someone whom they thought was happy and well-adjusted. Alienation can happen without others realising it.

I have had conversations with older patients who complain that the younger people in their workplace are not interested in interacting with them. They are left out of lunches and outings. When they ask for help with their work or the computer, they are made to feel they are a nuisance.

This happens even in religious institutions. Various people have shared that they could have been in meetings for years without anyone really taking an interest in them.

Break-ups in marriages and family relationships, everyone being busy with their own careers and pursuits, not giving much thought to the emotional needs of others - all these compound the problem of loneliness.

Dogmatic opinions, the unwillingness to listen to others or learn from those who are older, as well as the preoccupation with mobile phones and computers, further alienate people and do not promote healthy interactions.

Of course, there may be occasions when we need some quiet time for ourselves. But we must be willing to be others-centred, interested in people around us and be prepared to listen, if we want to nurture an environment which may help lessen this "loneliness epidemic".

Quek Koh Choon (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 22, 2017, with the headline 'Lend an ear to lessen 'loneliness epidemic''. Print Edition | Subscribe