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Spa Foresight™
Lonely planet

Loneliness is twice as unhealthy as obesity and the number of people affected by it is escalating. Katie Barnes investigates and asks what, if anything, spas can do to help

By Katie Barnes | Published in Spa Business 2015 issue 2


The number of people living alone has increased by a staggering 80 per cent in the last 17 years, rising to 341 million globally in 2013 according to Euromonitor International. Of course, living alone and feeling lonely are not mutually exclusive. But the statistics give some indication of the growing number of people who may be battling loneliness – a disease which has dramatic ramifications for our health.

Bad for health
Just as there are many factors that are involved in causing loneliness – from psychological issues such as low self-esteem and mental health problems to material circumstances and life events – there are many ways in which it can be damaging. Studies show that loneliness can interfere with sleep, raise blood pressure, decrease immunity, increase depression, lower overall wellbeing and stimulate the production of the stress hormone cortisol. And last year, researchers in the USA calculated that loneliness is a big killer and more dangerous for health than obesity.

Professor John Cacioppo and his team at the University of Chicago followed more than 2,000 people aged 50 and over for a period of six years. They found that those who felt the most isolated were nearly twice as likely to die than those who were the least lonely. When compared to the average person, the loneliest were 14 per cent more likely to die young – nearly as great a risk of early death as caused by poverty (19 per cent). A 2010 meta-analysis showed that loneliness has twice the impact on an early death as obesity, says Cacioppo.

“The prevalence of loneliness is relatively constant across the lifespan, so everyone could benefit from interventions to combat it,” he told Spa Business.

Touching on it
So is loneliness something spas can address? It’s a possibility given the therapeutic power of touch, says Dr Tiffany Field, founder of the Touch Research Institute – a centre in Miami, USA, which is devoted to the study of touch (see SB07/1 p70). “We haven’t specifically studied loneliness, but massage would certainly help people overcome the side effects – we know it alleviates sleep, depression and immune function problems. Spas are not only known for their wonderful massages, but they’re also great places to meet people.”

There’s certainly a need for people in society to be touched she adds, highlighting the success of a ‘cuddling shop’ which opened in Portland, USA last November. The shop offered an hour of platonic cuddling for US$60 (€49, £38) with the business receiving 10,000 emails in the first week of opening. It had to hire extra staff to meet demand.

Bevis Nathan, a trauma therapist and bodywork specialist based in the UK agrees that massage might help. He says: “Human beings are hard-wired to connect with one another and to be able to connect with themselves. We only truly thrive when we’re in a relationship. Massage, as we know, induces a relaxation response and is a form of relationship. When the brain experiences itself being soothed by another using touch, it can go some way to remind our unconscious selves of the importance of connection and the simple gift of touching.”

He does, however, suggest that the bond between the therapist and guest and creating a comfortable setting is paramount. “Massage, or being at a spa, are not themselves cures for loneliness, of course. But a nurturing and safe environment with a safe physical relationship conveyed through touch – by someone who you trust and have a good rapport with – can relieve the nervous system of some of the existential burden of feeling alone.”

A friendly approach
Creating a welcoming environment for people who visit on their own would be a simple first step for spas. This is something that Deborah Szekely, founder of Mexican destination spa Rancho La Puerta, feels strongly about. “We have a docent whose sole task is to take care of first time guests who come alone,” she says. “She has lunch with them shortly after they arrive, finds out their interests and introduces them into a circle of like-minded guests.” In addition, the spa is engineered around communal group activities where all guests eat together, join in hiking sessions and take part in cookery classes. Other facilities such as Miraval in the USA take this approach too.

For Karina Stewart, founding partner of Kamalaya destination spa in Thailand, it’s “clear that spas are in a position to address loneliness from a variety of perspectives”. She says: “The setting is conducive to having a personalised experience, while at the same time meeting other people in a contained and yet enriching environment. Additionally, destination spas are places where services and therapies may address some of the underlying issues of loneliness.”

Treatments focused on emotional imbalances could help, she says. Recently, Kamalaya launched Embracing Change, its first wellness programme to explore emotional challenges or habits that hinder optimal wellbeing and fulfilment.

In Italy, the Vair spa at Borgo Egnazia (see p70) has a psychosomatic approach to wellbeing and it has even created a Broken Hearts retreat to help people who have split from a loved one.

Other spas which don’t have such experts on staff could bring in guest speakers and put on seminars offering advice on combatting loneliness, including how different therapies can help. Perhaps these could be packaged with a massage session. If held on a regular basis, these could even help to connect people. After all, that’s what it’s all about concludes Szekely. “Certainly one of the draws of Rancho La Puerta is the ease in which one makes friends… and which causes the majority of our guests to say ‘same time, next year’, because they’ve arranged to meet up with their new-found friends again. When I lecture on Monday, without fail, I bring up the importance and the power of friendship.”


Affecting all ages
Loneliness is often associated with the elderly, but it can impact on younger people too. The Lonely Society, a 2010 report by the UK’s Mental Health Foundation, found that 18- to 34-year-olds are more likely to worry about feeling alone and to feel depressed because of loneliness than people aged over 55. Meanwhile, the Loneliness in New Zealand study and another survey by AARP, a USA membership organisation for the over 50s, both found that feelings of loneliness decrease with age.
A worldwide problem

It’s difficult to pinpoint the number of people who are suffering from loneliness as comparable global data doesn’t exist. In 2010, the Loneliness in New Zealand survey found that one in every three adults in the country (just over 1 million people) had some degree of loneliness in a four-week period.

In the USA research organisation Barna has found that the number of people who identify themselves as lonely has risen from 12 per cent in the early 2000s to 20 per cent in 2013: equalling 63 million people.

Meanwhile, Measuring National Well-being: European Comparisons, a 2014 survey, found that only 66.6 per cent of people on the continent feel close to the people in the area where they live on average. In addition, 7 per cent of people on average say they don’t have any support from their family, friends, neighbours or anyone else when they need advice about a serious personal or family matter.

 



Rancho La Puerta offers group activities to make individuals feel welcome


Katie Barnes is the managing editor of
Spa Business magazine
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: SpaBusinessKB

Experts say that given the therapeutic power of massage and touch, spas are ideally placed to tackle loneliness
Kamalaya’s Karina Stewart says spas are in a position to address loneliness from a variety of perspectives
Treatments focused on emotional imbalances might help says Stewart, whose spa has launched a programme to explore such problems
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23-24 May 2024

European Health Prevention Day

Large Hall of the Chamber of Commerce (Erbprinzenpalais), Wiesbaden, Germany
30-30 May 2024

Forum HOTel&SPA

Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris, France
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Uniting the world of spa & wellness
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Spa Foresight™
Lonely planet

Loneliness is twice as unhealthy as obesity and the number of people affected by it is escalating. Katie Barnes investigates and asks what, if anything, spas can do to help

By Katie Barnes | Published in Spa Business 2015 issue 2


The number of people living alone has increased by a staggering 80 per cent in the last 17 years, rising to 341 million globally in 2013 according to Euromonitor International. Of course, living alone and feeling lonely are not mutually exclusive. But the statistics give some indication of the growing number of people who may be battling loneliness – a disease which has dramatic ramifications for our health.

Bad for health
Just as there are many factors that are involved in causing loneliness – from psychological issues such as low self-esteem and mental health problems to material circumstances and life events – there are many ways in which it can be damaging. Studies show that loneliness can interfere with sleep, raise blood pressure, decrease immunity, increase depression, lower overall wellbeing and stimulate the production of the stress hormone cortisol. And last year, researchers in the USA calculated that loneliness is a big killer and more dangerous for health than obesity.

Professor John Cacioppo and his team at the University of Chicago followed more than 2,000 people aged 50 and over for a period of six years. They found that those who felt the most isolated were nearly twice as likely to die than those who were the least lonely. When compared to the average person, the loneliest were 14 per cent more likely to die young – nearly as great a risk of early death as caused by poverty (19 per cent). A 2010 meta-analysis showed that loneliness has twice the impact on an early death as obesity, says Cacioppo.

“The prevalence of loneliness is relatively constant across the lifespan, so everyone could benefit from interventions to combat it,” he told Spa Business.

Touching on it
So is loneliness something spas can address? It’s a possibility given the therapeutic power of touch, says Dr Tiffany Field, founder of the Touch Research Institute – a centre in Miami, USA, which is devoted to the study of touch (see SB07/1 p70). “We haven’t specifically studied loneliness, but massage would certainly help people overcome the side effects – we know it alleviates sleep, depression and immune function problems. Spas are not only known for their wonderful massages, but they’re also great places to meet people.”

There’s certainly a need for people in society to be touched she adds, highlighting the success of a ‘cuddling shop’ which opened in Portland, USA last November. The shop offered an hour of platonic cuddling for US$60 (€49, £38) with the business receiving 10,000 emails in the first week of opening. It had to hire extra staff to meet demand.

Bevis Nathan, a trauma therapist and bodywork specialist based in the UK agrees that massage might help. He says: “Human beings are hard-wired to connect with one another and to be able to connect with themselves. We only truly thrive when we’re in a relationship. Massage, as we know, induces a relaxation response and is a form of relationship. When the brain experiences itself being soothed by another using touch, it can go some way to remind our unconscious selves of the importance of connection and the simple gift of touching.”

He does, however, suggest that the bond between the therapist and guest and creating a comfortable setting is paramount. “Massage, or being at a spa, are not themselves cures for loneliness, of course. But a nurturing and safe environment with a safe physical relationship conveyed through touch – by someone who you trust and have a good rapport with – can relieve the nervous system of some of the existential burden of feeling alone.”

A friendly approach
Creating a welcoming environment for people who visit on their own would be a simple first step for spas. This is something that Deborah Szekely, founder of Mexican destination spa Rancho La Puerta, feels strongly about. “We have a docent whose sole task is to take care of first time guests who come alone,” she says. “She has lunch with them shortly after they arrive, finds out their interests and introduces them into a circle of like-minded guests.” In addition, the spa is engineered around communal group activities where all guests eat together, join in hiking sessions and take part in cookery classes. Other facilities such as Miraval in the USA take this approach too.

For Karina Stewart, founding partner of Kamalaya destination spa in Thailand, it’s “clear that spas are in a position to address loneliness from a variety of perspectives”. She says: “The setting is conducive to having a personalised experience, while at the same time meeting other people in a contained and yet enriching environment. Additionally, destination spas are places where services and therapies may address some of the underlying issues of loneliness.”

Treatments focused on emotional imbalances could help, she says. Recently, Kamalaya launched Embracing Change, its first wellness programme to explore emotional challenges or habits that hinder optimal wellbeing and fulfilment.

In Italy, the Vair spa at Borgo Egnazia (see p70) has a psychosomatic approach to wellbeing and it has even created a Broken Hearts retreat to help people who have split from a loved one.

Other spas which don’t have such experts on staff could bring in guest speakers and put on seminars offering advice on combatting loneliness, including how different therapies can help. Perhaps these could be packaged with a massage session. If held on a regular basis, these could even help to connect people. After all, that’s what it’s all about concludes Szekely. “Certainly one of the draws of Rancho La Puerta is the ease in which one makes friends… and which causes the majority of our guests to say ‘same time, next year’, because they’ve arranged to meet up with their new-found friends again. When I lecture on Monday, without fail, I bring up the importance and the power of friendship.”


Affecting all ages
Loneliness is often associated with the elderly, but it can impact on younger people too. The Lonely Society, a 2010 report by the UK’s Mental Health Foundation, found that 18- to 34-year-olds are more likely to worry about feeling alone and to feel depressed because of loneliness than people aged over 55. Meanwhile, the Loneliness in New Zealand study and another survey by AARP, a USA membership organisation for the over 50s, both found that feelings of loneliness decrease with age.
A worldwide problem

It’s difficult to pinpoint the number of people who are suffering from loneliness as comparable global data doesn’t exist. In 2010, the Loneliness in New Zealand survey found that one in every three adults in the country (just over 1 million people) had some degree of loneliness in a four-week period.

In the USA research organisation Barna has found that the number of people who identify themselves as lonely has risen from 12 per cent in the early 2000s to 20 per cent in 2013: equalling 63 million people.

Meanwhile, Measuring National Well-being: European Comparisons, a 2014 survey, found that only 66.6 per cent of people on the continent feel close to the people in the area where they live on average. In addition, 7 per cent of people on average say they don’t have any support from their family, friends, neighbours or anyone else when they need advice about a serious personal or family matter.

 



Rancho La Puerta offers group activities to make individuals feel welcome


Katie Barnes is the managing editor of
Spa Business magazine
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: SpaBusinessKB

Experts say that given the therapeutic power of massage and touch, spas are ideally placed to tackle loneliness
Kamalaya’s Karina Stewart says spas are in a position to address loneliness from a variety of perspectives
Treatments focused on emotional imbalances might help says Stewart, whose spa has launched a programme to explore such problems
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FEATURED SUPPLIERS

Step into a world of wellness with the Himalayan Source Salt Capsule
Himalayan Source has launched the Himalayan Salt Capsule to help spa, wellness and fitness facilities or residences upgrade their offering with halotherapy. [more...]

Book4Time unveils enhanced day and resort pass functionality
Book4Time has announced the launch of Day & Resort Passes on its award-winning platform to help hotels and resorts drive staycation business. [more...]
+ More featured suppliers  
COMPANY PROFILES
Beltrami Linen S.r.l.

Beltrami is an Italian family-owned business with over 50 years’ experience in textile manufacturing [more...]
+ More profiles  
CATALOGUE GALLERY
+ More catalogues  

DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

 

23-24 May 2024

European Health Prevention Day

Large Hall of the Chamber of Commerce (Erbprinzenpalais), Wiesbaden, Germany
30-30 May 2024

Forum HOTel&SPA

Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris, France
+ More diary  
 


ADVERTISE . CONTACT US

Leisure Media
Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2024

ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
LEISURE MEDIA MAGAZINES
LEISURE MEDIA HANDBOOKS
LEISURE MEDIA WEBSITES
LEISURE MEDIA PRODUCT SEARCH
PRINT SUBSCRIPTIONS
FREE DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTIONS