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Feeling lonely? You’re not alone – and it could be affecting your physical health




Loneliness has long been recognized as being bad for a person’s mental health, but research is now showing it can also be physically harmful.

“We know now it not only affects their quality of life, but the length of it too,” says Ami Rokach, a psychologist at Toronto’s York University who has studied loneliness for more than 30 years.

Beyond causing heightened rates of depression, anxiety and irritability, loneliness is now being associated with potentially life-shortening health issues such as higher blood pressure, heart disease and obesity.

Some experts have gone as far as to argue that being lonely for a prolonged period of time is more harmful to a person’s health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Rokach adds that the associated stigma often prevents those experiencing intense loneliness from seeking help.

“People think if they admit they are lonely it means people don’t want to be with them.”

It’s a global problem. In the U.K., the situation has become so pressing the government there has appointed a loneliness minister to tackle the issue.

In Canada, studies have found that one in five Canadians identify as being lonely.

Part of the issue is that more and more Canadians are living alone — 28 per cent of households, according to recent numbers by Statistics Canada.

Higher rates of divorce, stronger dependence on technology and sprawling urbanization have also been been credited as contributing factors to loneliness.

But regardless of the reasons why it occurs, the consensus is that it’s happening and the results are damaging.

There are also different ways to address it. The National spoke to several Canadians about the impact loneliness has had on their lives, and the strategies they’ve developed to deal with it.

Marci O’Connor

Marci O’Connor has felt intense bouts of loneliness ever since she was a child, even when people she’s close to are around. She says talking to a therapist about how she was feeling changed how she thinks about loneliness. (Andy Hincenbergs/CBC)

Marci O’Connor, 47, is recently divorced and works as a freelance writer. She lives in Montreal with her two sons when they aren’t with their father.

O’Connor is the last person many would think of as lonely.

Her social life is full. She works in a busy office with co-workers she likes. And she has friends and family she regularly visits in Toronto.

Yet she has experienced such intense feelings of loneliness that she’s sought counselling.

“I think it’s probably always been there,” she says. “It’s just a matter of not feeling connected enough to people in those ways where I could reach out for help or support or whatever it may be.”

O’Connor says her feelings of being lonely first started when she was a child and her parents divorced. As an adult she married and moved to a small town with her husband, and there her life revolved around family and raising her two sons.​

She says throughout that period, even surrounded by people, there were times when she felt familiar pangs of emotion. Not until recently, though, has O’Connor managed to put a name to what she was feeling and talk about it openly.

“I guess it’s a shameful feeling,” she explains.

“I’m not alone. I have my mom and my brother, who I’m close with, and I have my kids who I spend as much time as possible with. So I think I almost felt, like, where did that feeling come from and what does it say about these other relationships I have with people? That in spite of having them in my life, I feel lonely?”

After O’Connor and her husband separated, she says the isolation she felt was overwhelming.

“I just felt so alone and so vulnerable,” she says. “I was drowning at first, and that’s probably a normal feeling for the time, but instead of reaching out, I just pushed back. I just went my own way. I was just so busy trying to survive or tread water that I couldn’t reach out to people.”

If I was to talk about grief, people would nod and understand and sympathize, but loneliness is just this horrible word still.– Marci O’Connor

When she was finally ready to reach out, O’Connor says many of her friendships had disappeared, That’s when she started working hard to find ways to fight her feelings of loneliness.

She joined a gym and signed up for group fitness classes rather than hiking by herself as she used to.

She started taking her dog to an off-leash dog park where she could mingle with other dog owners, rather than going for long walks alone.

She also turned to therapy. She says talking with someone about how she was feeling changed how she thought about loneliness.

“We’re not used to talking about it,” O’Connor says. “We’re not used to using that word and if you do there is a stigma … if I was to talk about grief people would nod and understand and sympathize, but loneliness is just this horrible word still.”

O’Connor has now learned to allow her loneliness to guide her to new possibilities. Last year, she even applied to the navy in an attempt to find a community she could call her own. Though she ultimately didn’t make the cut, she says the experience pushed her out of her comfort zone and showed her that she can use her emotions as a motivator to improve her life.

“I can’t change the loneliness, but the choice I have is just to sort of breathe and accept it and say ‘OK, what can I do now — it’s there, what can I do now?”

Marci O’Connor, 47, lives with her sons in Montreal. She has struggled with feelings of loneliness all her life despite a number of close family and social relationships, and says admitting it is very difficult. 0:29

Melvina Alderson

Melvina Alderson, a senior who lives alone, signed up for a program called Keeping Connected that pairs volunteers with seniors for weekly check-in phone calls. ‘Every Thursday I look forward to that phone call,’ she says. (Jonathan Castell/CBC)

Loneliness does not discriminate by age. Researchers have shown it affects people in all demographics.

However, recent census data shows 25 per cent of seniors live alone, and loneliness does hit this demographic particularly hard. In seniors, loneliness has been linked to dementia, social isolation and a shortened lifespan.

Melvina Alderson, 73, lives alone in Brampton, Ont. She has family nearby, but often spends her days alone and finds the silence so difficult that she works hard to mask it.

“I’ll turn music on. I usually have music on all the time,” she says. “It’s like you’re not alone, because you’ve got voices and singing and it’s one of the best ways to get rid of depression.”

In addition to having music blaring in her one-bedroom apartment practically around the clock, Alderson also goes to great lengths to ensure that she’s rarely alone. She volunteers for her local legion branch several times a week and helps with things like staffing the branch’s poppy stand at the mall near her home, putting in eight hour days in the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day.

“Oh, the busier I am the better I am, and the happier I am, because I’m not sitting around doing nothing,” she explains.

Sometimes it feels like no one cares, but when I feel that way it’s time to pull up my socks and go and do something where someone appreciates what I’m doing.– Melvina   Alderson

On the days Alderson isn’t volunteering for the legion, she runs the food bank program at her building, sorting through dozens of pounds of food donated through The Knight’s Table and doling it out to residents who need it.

Alderson also signed up for a program called Keeping Connected that pairs volunteers with seniors for weekly check-in phone calls. Alderson gets her calls on Thursday mornings and says they go a long way to helping her cope with being alone.

“Every Thursday I look forward to that phone call,” she says. “It’s a connection, and when you find a connection like that it’s great because you’re not lonely.”

Even with all her coping strategies, though, Alderson admits the loneliness doesn’t always abate.

“It comes in different waves, it’s not always all the time,” she says.

“Sometimes it feels like no one cares, but when I feel that way it’s time to pull up my socks and go and do something where someone appreciates what I’m doing. But, yeah, it can be devastating, especially if it’s a long period of time or at special times of the year.”

Melvina Alderson, 73, lives alone in Brampton, Ont. She’s struggled with loneliness, but has developed some strategies to manage the impact it has on her life. 0:12

Angelo Cariati

When Fifth Grader Sukhkaran Pandher, left, feels lonely, he says he goes to his school’s new ‘friendship bench’ to find someone to talk to. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Homestead Public School in Brampton, Ont., prides itself on going further than most schools in making sure its students feel welcome and supported.

It’s a big school, with more than 800 students and a large immigrant population. It has a newcomers club and a recess buddy program. And it recently made an addition educators hope will help new kids feel less lonely when they arrive.

“One of our ideas to help kids was pursuing a friendship bench,” says Angelo Cariati, the school’s vice-principal. “It’s tangible, it’s proactive and the children can go there if they need a friend or somebody to talk to.”

The bench sits in the school’s atrium. The idea is that kids who are feeling lonely or upset sit on it, and that act alone is an invitation for someone else to sit down beside them and strike up a conversation.

Already, Cariati has heard of several instances where exactly that has happened.

One day last month, right before recess, Fifth Grader Sukhkaran Pandher says he sat on the bench — and what happened next was amazing. Within minutes a girl sat down beside him and asked him what was wrong and why he was alone.

Pandher was lonely and was also being bullied by an older student.

“I didn’t tell anyone,” he says. “I just kept it to myself.”

But the bench changed that.

“Now there was this girl sitting here and she was nice … I told her everything.”

It’s a good thing that I can have somewhere to share my problems with someone.– Sukhkaran   Pandher

Cariati says this incident is exactly why his school pushed so hard to get the bench, a process that included a fundraising initiative.

“You couldn’t have planned that,” he says. “It’s a child who instantly felt a connection with what came out of the bench, so now I know as an educator ‘wow that’s great, we do have a tool there.'”

Cariati adds that now he can follow up to make sure Pandher is “going home feeling safe and coming back to school feeling safe.”

Cariati is well aware of the impact of children feeling lonely at school, including how it leads to low self esteem and children taking fewer risks. He says his school is committed to making sure issues like these get dealt with head-on.

For his part, Pandher says he now feels he has somewhere to turn to that he didn’t before.

“It’s really nice, and it’s a good thing that I can have somewhere to share my problems with someone,” he says.

Angelo Cariati, the vice-principal at Homestead Public School in Brampton, Ont., describes the success the school is seeing with its friendship-bench initiative to help fight loneliness among students. 0:44

More from CBC

Watch The National’s story on the health effects of loneliness and how people are learning to manage it:

One in five Canadians identify themselves as lonely, something that is more than just a feeling we sometimes have in our lowest moments. It’s been described as an epidemic, and some say it is killing us. Feelings of loneliness have been linked to a higher risk for depression, anxiety, dementia, heart disease and diabetes. Ioanna Roumeliotis gives us an in-depth look into this world, and the people who are fighting to escape it. 12:34

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high





(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine





(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states





In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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