A 2018 study reports that 22% of all adults in the US – nearly 60 million — said they often or always felt lonely or socially isolated (Kaiser Family Foundation) and 45% of seniors (65 and older) feel lonely on a regular basis (HRSA).
Along with the emotional response to feeling lonely comes many health risks that include increased risk of dementia, stroke, and coronary heart disease (CDC). There is no doubt we are a lonely bunch and alleviating loneliness is a public health concern. Over the past two years we have all become masters of zoom, and all things virtual. However, it may be time to set aside our phones, tablets, and computers for an old-fashioned way of alleviating the loneliness – the handwritten note.
Letter writing is tied to our hearts through our inherent drive for social bonds (Janine Ilsley, LMSW). In May of 2020 the United States Postal Service published research stating 65% of people agreed that receiving mail lifted their spirits, with just under 67% stating they have sent or would send mail to family or friends. Many studies have been conducted on the benefits of both the person composing the handwritten sentiments, as well as those receiving the letter.
Letter writing is tied to our hearts through our inherent drive for social bonds. Studies prove letters bring us closer together. The letter recipient will feel special and appreciate the thoughtful effort invested into physically writing, addressing, and mailing a letter. This sends the message to the recipient that they are important to the sender (Janine Ilsley, LMSW).
When we think about an idea or concept, we can get stuck looking at it one way, but when we actually put pen to paper, a different part of our brain begins to examine the idea, opening new doors. The repetitive nature of writing gives us the option to focus on what we are writing and the physicality of the act of writing, working on different aspects of our brain. (Erin Miers, Psy.D.). When reading books from the past we often hear of letters from past love saved in a box, or letters from family someone holds dear and rereads when they feel a need for comfort. There is something about a handwritten note that touches our heart in a way lacking in today’s fast-paced world of electronic communication.
So, pick up your favorite pen and share your heart with your grandma far away, or your neighbor down the street and always remember the words of Soraya Diase Coffelt, “Letter writing can be seen as a gift because someone has taken his/her time to write and think and express love.”
Write a Letter to Lift Loneliness! If you want to bring joy to someone you don’t even know consider writing a letter to a resident of a local nursing home or assisted living center. Simply address the letter to “Any Resident”. Staff will forward it to a resident that has few visitors or correspondence, and it is guaranteed it will make their day!
End Loneliness Campaign
The End Loneliness Campaign supports volunteers, professionals, elected officials, and concerned citizens to end loneliness in Idaho. This campaign is modeled after the End Loneliness UK campaign that has had decades of success in multiple countries around the world. Find the free “Let’s End Loneliness” training course on the Commission on Aging’s website.