Are you lonely or bored? Recognize the difference between the two feelings.

By Connie Mason Michaelis Special to the Capital-Journal

Photo by mikoto.raw Photographer on

There is much written these days about the effect of loneliness on the senior population. Loneliness is now considered a significant health risk as we age, and one study revealed being lonely had the same health risk as smoking cigarettes!

There is no medical test to diagnosis it, and many folks would be embarrassed to admit that they felt lonely even if they were asked. Still, it is a fact that loneliness is an epidemic among older people today.

What is the difference between loneliness and boredom? I remember when the kids were young, they would occasionally say they were bored. It always came with a whiney entitled voice and body language that collapsed on the sofa.

It would irritate the heck out of me. I’d say, “If you’re bored, then I’ve got some ideas for you, like clean your room, read a book, take out the trash.”

I had plenty of cures for boredom; boredom was like a sin in our family! But boredom is a real emotion and, to me, it says, “I have no sense of purpose or enthusiasm.”

A person can be engaged in a profitable business and making an excellent living but be bored with their work. Someone can have a beautiful home, good health and family with all the accoutrements of life and still be bored. An artist could be talented and find significant success and still find themselves bored.

A retiree might be golfing, fishing, and have an active social life, but be bored. What is that feeling, and are older people more susceptible to it?

While loneliness entails a lack of involvement, boredom is a lack of purpose and can happen to anyone at any time. But the likelihood of boredom may escalate at an older age.

The activities that filled a person’s life at an earlier time are gone, and the resulting sense of self-realization can diminish.

In its simplest form, loneliness is having purpose — thoughts, interests and passions but no one to share them with. In contrast, boredom is having people with whom to share but lacking in the sense of satisfaction, gratification and productivity.

Although the outward appearance might be the same, the antidotes would be different. Do you suffer from either of these? Next week we’ll explore the cures.

Find Connie’s book, “Daily Cures: Wisdom for Healthy Aging,” at

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