I’ve never been a fan of Valentine’s Day.
Don’t get me wrong, I like to think of myself as romantic. I love flowers; I like the little gesture that means a lot; I am not averse to candlelight and good food.
But the trouble with Valentine’s Day is the pressure. You simply must be paired up, happy and “loved up” or somehow you are a failure. This one day out of 365 it is essential to be in some kind of idyllic relationship. And the pressure is significant. Cards everywhere, red hearts in every shop, roses and soppy music wherever you turn.
This has two effects
Firstly, for those people in relationships it creates yet more stress to be the perfect partner. It is almost impossible to live up to the hype and be a wonderful valentine. And relationships in the modern world are tricky enough without this added pressure.
And for single people it can be a difficult day. Whether they want to be in a relationship or not, it seems as if the world and the media are shouting at them for being alone.
Why does this matter? Surely it is just a way for the card manufacturers, the flower sellers and the restaurants to drum up business. Well, yes and no.
Researchers in the US recently reviewed over 200 studies into loneliness that looked at 4 million individuals. What they concluded was quite shocking. They found that loneliness and social isolation pose a greater risk to public health than obesity.
Dr Holt-Lunstad of the Brigham Young University of Utah said: “There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators. With an increasing aging population, the effect on public health is only anticipated to increase. Indeed, many nations around the world now suggest we are facing a ‘loneliness epidemic’.”
To be blunt, loneliness kills.
So maybe the huge and over dramatic emphasis on Valentine’s Day is not helpful, simply exacerbating the loneliness that many people feel.
At Healthwatch Bristol we are launching a campaign “You don’t have to do Valentines!” Feel free to celebrate it if you want, but don’t feel that you have to. There is nothing wrong with being on your own, or being with a partner but ignoring the whole thing.
So keep an eye on our twitter feed that will celebrate lots of great things that happened on 14th Feb throughout the years, and use #youdonthavetodovalentines to tell us what you are doing this year.
And me? Well, me and daisy will be sitting on the sofa, cuddled up, watching telly.