The World Health Organisation recently published a report, ‘Preventing Suicide, A Global Imperative,’ and India was declared as the suicide capital of the world. The most affected age group was 15 to 29 and published studies reveal that the major causes for suicide deaths are loneliness, depression and physical illness.

Each day hoards of young aspirants migrate to cities with hopes of a job and a great new life. But the grind of corporate life – with grueling schedules and long days that leave no time for socializing – soon takes over. The result is that many young people find themselves fighting loneliness.

Loneliness has been described as a severely distressing condition resulting from emotional or social isolation. It drives many to alcohol or indiscriminate sexual affairs, and in extreme cases, suicide. Some health practitioners even describe loneliness as the “silent killer” stalking corporate corridors.

According to a report published by the APA, a lack of friends isn’t simply an inconvenience when you want a movie partner or a ride to the hospital. A sparse social circle is a significant health risk. In one meta-analysis of 148 studies comprising more than 308,000 people, psychologists found that participants with stronger social relationships were 50 percent more likely to survive compared to those with weaker connections — a risk comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day and double that of obesity. (PLOS Medicine, 2010).

Fighting loneliness

Recognize you are lonely: Very few of the clients I speak to admit they are really “lonely”; the general reason for feeling low is put down as work stress. Learn to recognize the signs that mean you are feeling socially isolated. One way to know is if you often use words such as:

I feel a strange sort of emptiness – like something’s missing.

I find it difficult to talk to others and share my feelings.

Though I earn well and contribute to family expenses, I feel purposeless.

Even with a large group of colleagues, I feel alone.

I feel uncomfortable being alone with myself.

Develop meaningful relationships: Having a large crowd to hang out with is no antidote to loneliness. What you need are meaningful relationships with people you can depend on and share your laughter and concerns with, such as your family and friends.

Maintain contact: Make the effort to stay in touch with family and friends. Call to wish them on special occasions and attend social gatherings. Invite your parents or siblings to come over and visit you.

Restrict online socializing: Internet addiction is a leading cause of loneliness, according to some studies. Make effort to meet in person.

Join an exercise class: If you hate the thought of a gym, start walking around your building or in a nearby park – you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to strike up a conversation with others walking with you.

Volunteer for a cause: Teach your house help’s child over the weekend. Or associate with a voluntary organization. This will help you connect with others and also provide meaning and purpose to life.

Seek professional help: Sometimes loneliness is the result of social anxiety. A few therapy sessions with a trained professional can build confidence in forming relationships.

Get spiritually connected. Praying or meditating for a few minutes may help that feeling of “emptiness”. Connecting with yourself spiritually also has a calming effect and aids introspection.

This post originally appeared in the Life In a Metro.