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  • Writer's pictureRhoda Akua Ameyaa

Is There An Ongoing Loneliness Pandemic?


via timesnownews.com/

Sure, there is no point in arguing that people are not lonely, especially from the wear and tear effect Covid-19 has had on the world since it took over, but if we remove covid-19 from the equation, how extreme are people lonely these days? Loneliness is not a thing to be made fun of, given that anybody can be lonely at any point in their life. It is not to be taken lightly either because loneliness could graduate into something worse. Currently, the rate at which someone can be lonely has increased compared to loneliness in the 1980s. According to this study, social alienation, isolation, and separation are risk factors for loneliness. But that actually makes sense given that there is a rise in individualistic culture in some parts of the world. Research has shown that individualism has a positive association with loneliness. Individuals living in societies that encourage individualistic culture frequently report loneliness, while people living in societies with collectivistic cultures report far fewer cases of loneliness. All these data assert that loneliness has thrived globally. Are there any chances that loneliness is quickly spreading and evolving as a possible pandemic?


Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

This past year, the rate of loneliness in the United States increased due to the isolation imposed by covid -19. Certain surveys suggested that just within the first month of COVID-19, loneliness increased by at least twenty percent. Yet, interestingly, Covid-19 proves that isolation increases loneliness, but it does not explain how loneliness spreads or thrives. It is hard to predict how loneliness spreads because sometimes it is a condition that does not refer to how many people someone hangs out with or talks to daily. One can feel lonely even when thousands of people surround them. Nevertheless, research has shown that one can pass on their loneliness because loneliness is contagious. Just as people can transmit happiness, they can also transmit loneliness. This is because loneliness has strong connections with how someone looks at the world. Once a person begins spending time with other people, there are chances that they may influence them in so many ways, and one of them is altering their worldview. Since much of what loneliness is is in the details of the discrepancy between the number and quality of the relationships that someone desires and those they actually have, lonely people are prone to a surge of emotional cascades that affect their behaviors. Lonely people lose some of the control they have over themselves. In addition to losing control, lonely people tend to recognize threats more readily and become more judgemental of the people they spend time with. The people they spend time with can feel the overflow of emotional discrepancies and perpetuate a new loneliness cycle.


via https://medium.com/rsa

Studies have shown that just as social interactions can influence a person’s ideal or perceived interpersonal relationships, their loneliness can also influence their social network. Because of how socially detached and sometimes hostile loneliness makes people, the behaviors of lonely people can decrease the rate at which others are satisfied with the relationship they have with them, which can lead to a weakness in their bond, consequently inducing loneliness. The cycle can go on and on, just like how a dangerous virus spreads and causes a pandemic.


As one can perhaps infer from reading so far, though not always, the number of people someone interacts with can be a factor in determining whether they are lonely or not. According to a published research study by The Survey Center on American Life, Americans are lonelier now than 30 years ago. One cause of this is the dramatic decrease in the number of close friends people have these days. Recent studies show that three out of five Americans are lonely and about 2 out of the three are working class. As pointed out in the early parts of this article, individualistic culture is one of the things to blame for the increase in loneliness.


Even at workplaces, individualism makes people prize personal accomplishments over group ones to the point where co-workers see one another as competition instead of team members. This lowers the socialization at workplaces and creates a tension that tends to alter workers’ views of the world around them. People in individualistic cultures tend to see competition where there is none and worry more about what others say, feel, or hear about them. This worry propagates withdrawal from social bindings, breeds loneliness and passes it on to others.


via https://www.rtor.org/

Among younger generations, the loneliness rates are even higher. This is partly because the younger generations make up greater parts of the workforce. According to a Cigna study, loneliness rates are higher for Generation Z workers. Specifically, workers aged 18 through 24 have about 73% of them reporting symptoms of loneliness which is a 3% increase between 2019 and 2020. With Gen-Z being an impressionable generation, the chances that they will be heavily influenced by the individualistic culture are higher. That also means they can easily induce loneliness in others through their quick sharing of information and bluntness of character.


In fact, there are so many other factors to consider and angles to look through when discussing the rampant surge of loneliness among people these days. The facts and data all point towards an ongoing loneliness pandemic that has, in fact, been around for a while. I wonder why we don’t talk about that part of mental health as we do the others. It is as critical as the others and can lead to even severe mental health disparities. We must start conversations about loneliness that include destigmatizing admitting one’s loneliness. There is a very long way to go. Still, I wish we could start prioritizing the sense of community among people and slow down the fast-paced individualistic culture that pushes people to the point of isolation and detachment. That won’t solve everything, but it sure would be a great start.

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