Loneliness is the worst world pandemic

– “I moved to X.  because of the war and I am lonely here, can you help me cope with loneliness?”

This incredible message was sent to us a few days ago by a knockout-blue-eyed- blonde professional lady from the Ukraine that we had met online in a chat space. How is it possible that she could not find a romantic partner anywhere she chose to settle? And if I were to tell you that she cooks. And she knits too

Loneliness is a major scourge of all nations that crosses all the socioeconomic, ethnic, age and cultural segments of our modern societies, significantly worsened after two years of social isolation and profound anxiety due to the Covid pandemic. The social and economic consequences have been progressively subsiding, but the mental and psychosomatic sequelae are not only resiliently persisting but for many individuals have even worsened. There are new triggers of anxiety and depression.

As we have repeatedly said in our previous articles and recent book, despite having the most advanced means of communication that mankind has ever known, we are more isolated and lonelier than ever in the history of societal communities. The terms loneliness and social isolation are related but not interchangeable. Social isolation is usually defined by objective measures like the number and depth of family relationships, social networking, participation in social institutions, etc. Loneliness is usually defined by subjective measures like personal perceptions of emotional deprivation and absence of inclusiveness plus the void of personal rapports.

Dr. Neil Charness, Director of the Institute of Successful Longevity, said: “Important risk factors for loneliness and social isolation are age (older people are more likely to report being lonely), physical and mental health (greater disability is associated with greater loneliness), lack of access to mobility options (driving, public transportation), lower income levels and living arrangements (living alone).  Taking on the role of full-time caregiver for a loved one can also led to social isolation.”

Note. This reproduction of Le Penseur by Auguste Rodin was taken from Wikimedia Commons.

Recognizing the deleterious effects on the mental and physical health of patients of modern nations, the United Kingdom, the very first Western nation to institute a National Health Service after World War II, took the initiative by creating a new Ministry of Loneliness with Baroness Barran as its first designated functionary.

In June 2021, inaugurating the Loneliness Awareness Week, Baroness Barran said: “Although life is beginning to feel closer to normal for many people, we are still in a critical stage when it comes to tackling loneliness. There is a large number of people who felt lonely before the pandemic and will continue to do so as lockdown restrictions ease.”  There is generous funding to set initiatives to foster the following.

a) Check in with a neighbor, recognizing that some people will be keen to get together in person once possible, while others might be more cautious.

b) Keep in touch with friends, family, and neighbors – for example calling someone or writing a letter, asking how they feel about getting out and about again, and considering whether going together would help both of you feel more confident.

c) Contact organizations – there’s a list of organizations on the Let’s Talk Loneliness website, which can offer support.

d) Set a routine with online activities, regular tasks or by volunteering. Rejoin groups that might not have met for some time, and think about how you can welcome others back, especially people not feeling very confident.

An online survey of 950 Americans carried out in October 2020 showed that: “36% of all Americans—including 61% of young adults and 51% of mothers with young children—feel ‘serious loneliness.’ Not surprisingly, loneliness appears to have increased substantially since the outbreak of the global pandemic.” However, the loneliness epidemic in the USA not only concerns the elderly, but also younger generations like the Baby Boomers, who have started to retire in droves since the begging of the 21st century, and the still employed Gen X.

In a November 27, 2022, New York Times article Dana Goldstein and Robert Gebeloff said: “in 1960, just 13 percent of American households had a single occupant. But that figure has risen steadily, and today it is approaching 60 percent. For households headed by someone 50 or older, that figure is 36 percent. Nearly 26 million Americans 50 or older now live alone, up from 15 million in 2000. Older people have always been more likely than others to live by themselves, and now that age group—baby boomers and Gen Xers—makes up a bigger share of the population than at any time in the nation’s history.”

However, there are encouraging signs that older people are positively reacting to their loneliness at home by reaching out for civic institutions in society to do voluntary services and even opt to become partially employed as caregivers. In our book Emotional Frustration—the Hushed Plague, we discuss it extensively.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

 What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.