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UNAIR Psychologist emphasize self-awareness for preventing obesity deaths

Illustration by Halodoc
Illustration by Halodoc

UNAIR NEWS – The mortality rate in people with obesity, due to loneliness, is found to increase. Previous studies have emerged regarding loneliness and diseases that elevate the risk of premature death, as highlighted in a JAMA journal in late January 2024.

Prof. Dr. Nurul Hartini S Psi M Kes, an expert psychologist from Universitas Airlangga, explains that it is highly possible for death in obese individuals to occur due to loneliness. However, this occurs under two assumptions: loneliness causes obesity, which leads to death, or obesity causes loneliness, resulting in death.

“It is possible that someone isolates themselves, leading to loneliness. This triggers actions that worsen the body’s condition, such as losing control over body weight. Additionally, individuals with obesity may face societal stigma, feeling that they don’t meet beauty standards or experiencing other negative perceptions, which may lead to social withdrawal and feelings of loneliness. This, in turn, can escalate other negative activities,” she said.

Obesity affects the body’s metabolism and leads to other diseases hormonally. Therefore, the cause of death may not solely be attributed to loneliness or obesity itself. It could be a result of the body being obese, exacerbated by mental illness, which subsequently impacts the body’s hormonal system and gives rise to other coexisting diseases.

Prof. Dr. Nurul Hartini S Psi M Kes, Psychologist from Universitas Airlangga (Photo: By courtesy)

The Faculty of Psychology lecturer explains that loneliness is one of many factors that contribute to obesity-related death. Obesity significantly affects the hormonal system. Psychologically, obesity often begins with stressful conditions. While some people can manage stress with positive actions such as exercising, others respond with negative activities.

“Negative acts include persons failing to maintain a proper diet, resulting in excessive weight gain and obesity. It is difficult to lose weight once you have gained it. However, the individual may have a different body image and believe that obesity is unpleasant or unattractive,” she said.

This leads to double stressors—originating from both external and internal sources. The internal stress arises from a lack of self-love due to the individual’s body condition. Consequently, people with obesity tend to isolate themselves from society, feeling abandoned by their environment.

“The sense of loneliness triggers negative coping mechanisms, including low self-confidence due to the inability to cultivate positive self-esteem, worsening the situation,” she said.

Prof. Nurul emphasizes that preventing a rise in mortality among individuals with obesity, linked to loneliness, requires support from the environment and an improvement of their self-awareness.

“In dealing with changes in someone’s behavior, a quick response from those around them is necessary. For example, if someone shows signs of stress, talk to them and listen to their complaints to show social support,” she said.

People need to improve education and literacy in mental health as loneliness is one of the main indicators of poor mental health. Good mental health contributes to creating harmonious relationships within the social environment.

Education can be conducted through electronic devices, such as reading or accessing positive and healthy content. Don’t hesitate to seek online assistance through consultations with experts.

“Basically, everyone needs alone time to generate fresh ideas. However, if loneliness develops into a negative influence on personal well-being, stop distancing yourself from the social environment and build harmonious relationships together,” she said.

Author: Ilma Arrafi Nafi’a

Editor : Khefti Al Mawalia