19th Surgeon General of the United States Vivek Murthy, who served from 2014 to 2017, wrote that “Loneliness is a growing health epidemic. We live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization, yet rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980s.” He continued by saying that “Today, over 40% of adults in America report feeling lonely, and research suggests that the real number may well be higher.”
Feeling lonely can elevate stress hormones disturbing sleep and causing depression. Some studies have found a correlation between decreased immunity and a person feeling more lonely; possibly the mechanism for this is the impact of release of stress hormones. Those who eat alone may comfort eat or chose fast food that is less healthy then meals cooked from scratch in turn such eating habits can lead to other physical health issues. Similarly those feeling lonely may turn to alcohol or other drugs.
A report by the late labour MP Jo Cox, made a number of recommendations including having a minster for loneliness therefore in January 2018 Tracy Crouch has been appointed as loneliness minster. The report stated over 9 million British adults reported being “often or always lonely,” this is approximately 15 to 20 percent of the adult population
Technology has evolved now that you can be anywhere yet connect to someone else miles away in the world, why therefore do people get lonely? Is it because we have less actual physical contact? Conversely often when we are with people whether, we know them or not; they will have a hand on their phone. For example; when you look around on public transport more people than not will be looking at their phone. Have we become too afraid of other people; I can remember being taught about stranger danger at school; in times gone by were people more trusting and more amenable to talking to those around them because they did not have other options to communicate with people who were not there? In times gone by, without Google perhaps there was more need to connect in order to learn or any transactions were face to face whereas now you can shop for anything online without speaking to a real person, then if it fits through the letterbox; you never see another person during the buying process.
Are people lonelier than in the past or is it just symptomatic of the way that we are more aware of emotions and mental health that people identify as feeling lonely more? Are people less afraid to admit to loneliness rather than keep it to themselves?
What do you think, is loneliness increasing and if so why? Do you feel lonely?
If you were loneliness minster what policies would you implement?