The Problems With Isolation And Exclusion In Rural Communities

Typically, we think of rural areas as the ideal places to live in. People associate the countryside with peace and serenity. However, like all places, rural locations have their own set of unique problems that people must take into account.

Many people who are tired of the isolated nature of city life look forward to simpler living in the countryside, where tightly knit communities provide all the necessary social support they need. Unfortunately, the closeness of these communities can also lead to the stronger exclusion of people who do not seem to fit in. Understanding these trends is crucial in developing ways to counteract them.

Isolation And Exclusion

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Isolation can be through physical means, such as when people feel that there are just too few people that they can interact with. Temporary seclusion can be beneficial for people from cities and other areas with high population density, giving them respite from too much human interaction.

Over time, though, isolation deprives people of necessary social interaction. The quality of life of many people can suffer when they experience long periods of aloneness, which the low population density of rural areas exacerbates; small groups may be miles apart.

One coping mechanism for isolation is the formation of closer bonds with the people you do get to interact with. The particular living conditions in the countryside give rise to rural communities which are more closely knit than urban communities.

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However, with this closer interaction comes the problem of exclusion, as it becomes easier for recent additions to the community to feel that they cannot integrate with the tight community. Cultural differences between individuals and the community at large are more emphasized, potentially leading to people feel ostracized and left out of the community, in social terms.

Effects On Physical And Mental Health

Chronic feelings of loneliness can wreak havoc on one’s mental health. Humans adapted to rely on social networks for support, and people without this support are forced to rely only on themselves. Their ability to cope with stress declines, putting a constant strain on their mental health. Without proper intervention, they are more likely to develop serious mental health conditions such as depression.

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The anxiety and stress that loneliness produces can also be physically taxing on the body. Similar to people under chronic stress, people who feel excluded and isolated have weaker immune systems and have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Generally, isolation leads to poorer quality of life and shorter lifespans.

Ways To Cope

Fortunately, there are several ways by which people can stave off loneliness when living in rural areas. The key here is to become an established part of the local community, and this can be accomplished by trying to form social bonds with locals. You can try joining local events and making a conscious effort to know people. Even if becoming friends with everyone is not mandatory, make sure that you can find a few friends that you find fun and comfortable to be around.

Finally, establish a good way to contact professional mental health services, just in case the need for it arises. Since the nearest health facility may be miles away, consider alternative communication media such as through phone or the Internet. Choose a licensed therapist that you can trust. Prepare a good support network with locals and with your therapist so that you can deal with any feelings of isolation.