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Tag: Loneliness

A Beautifully Simple Way to Deal With Loneliness

The disease of loneliness is spreading. And it’s getting worse as we get more attached to technologies that isolate us from others, and away from ‘the real world.’

But the Danish have come up with a simple and elegant way to cope with loneliness. The program is call Ventilen, or “friend to one” in Danish.

First some background from Jenny Anderson’s piece in Quartz :

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study showed that 22% of Americans, 23% of Brits and 9% of Japanese adults said they felt lonely all the time. When the BBC asked 55,000 people about their experiences with loneliness,33% of respondents said they were “often” or “very often” lonely. Among those aged 16-24, the figure was a shocking 40%.

Vivek Murthy, the former US surgeon general, has declared loneliness an “epidemic,” noting that it was dangerous both in its own right and because of its links to deep societal problems such as addiction and violence: “It’s prevalent, it’s common, and the studies Julianne [Holt-Lunstad] and others have done have shown a robust association with illnesses that we actually care about, including heart disease, dementia, depression and anxiety, and very importantly, longevity.”

Indeed, Holt-Lunstad’s research shows that being disconnected poses comparable danger to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is more predictive of early death than the effects of air pollution or physical inactivity.

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Who lives alone in Canada and how does that impact their health and wellbeing?

Questions continue to be raised about the possible impacts of living alone on the prevalence of social isolation and loneliness in society.

Statistics Canada has released a study that looked at the Canadian population living alone, using data from both the Census of Population and the General Social Survey on Family. Here’s some of what they found.

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Loneliness is a serious public-health problem

Doctors and policymakers in the rich world are increasingly worried about loneliness. Campaigns to reduce it have been launched in Britain, Denmark and Australia. In Japan the government has surveyed hikikomori, or “people who shut themselves in their homes”. Last year Vivek Murthy, a former surgeon-general of the United States, called loneliness an epidemic, likening its impact on health to obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes per day. In January Theresa May, the British prime minister, appointed a minister for loneliness.

And

Researchers define loneliness as perceived social isolation, a feeling of not having the social contacts one would like. Of course, the objectively isolated are much more likely than the average person to feel lonely. But loneliness can also strike those with seemingly ample friends and family.

And

Researchers have three theories as to how loneliness may lead to ill health, says Nicole Valtorta of Newcastle University. The first covers behaviour. Lacking encouragement from family or friends, the lonely may slide into unhealthy habits. The second is biological. Loneliness may raise levels of stress, say, or impede sleep, and in turn harm the body. The third is psychological, since loneliness can augment depression or anxiety.

Read more at the Economist (paywall)

Is loneliness a health epidemic?

In particular, overstating the problem can make it harder to make sure we are focusing on the people who need help the most. When Britain announced its new ministry, officials insisted that everyone, young or old, was at risk of loneliness. Yet the research tells us something more specific. In places like the United States and Britain, it’s the poor, unemployed, displaced and migrant populations that stand to suffer most from loneliness and isolation. Their lives are unstable, and so are their relationships. When they get lonely, they are the least able to get adequate social or medical support.

I don’t believe we have a loneliness epidemic. But millions of people are suffering from social disconnection. Whether or not they have a minister for loneliness, they deserve more attention and help than we’re offering today.

Eric Klinenberg, a professor of sociology at New York University and the author of “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone,” doesn’t thing there’s an epidemic of loneliness, but then from the title of his book, he may not be open to exploring otherwise. The NYTimes might want to publish a rebuttal piece and let readers make up their own minds.

Four days after having been published on the New York Times website, this article is still trending. What does that tell you?

Read more: Eric Klinenberg, New York Times

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