25 Jul, 2012 Last updated: 30 Mar, 2015

By Jerril Rechter, VicHealth CEO

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter

While it was saddening to read the recent article in The Age, You are not alone, it was encouraging to hear people openly speak about it.

There is strong evidence of the relationship between social isolation and health. Older people who are socially isolated are more likely to have poorer health in general, while isolated adolescents are more likely to experience mental health issues, show depressive symptoms and have lower self-esteem.

I would like to suggest that any readers feeling vulnerable as a result of social isolation should try to re-engage with their communities in ways that have been proven to have both mental and physical health benefits.

Arts and cultural activities create opportunities for people to expand their social networks and to develop new friendships, which can provide social support and impact positively on health.

It has been shown that people who go to museums and concerts, create art or play an instrument are happier and more satisfied with their lives, regardless of how educated or rich they are.

Another way to engage socially is through active participation in physical activity, which also has huge mental health benefits and is known to reduce depression, stress and anxiety, and improve self-confidence, self-esteem, energy levels, sleep quality and the ability to concentrate.

Participation in arts or physical activities are just two ways people can use to improve their mental health. There are many others.

Yesterday's article at least has the topic front and centre in the media, allowing people to do one of the best things they can when it comes to social isolation, and that is to speak to someone about it.

- Jerril