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Social isolation is a growing epidemic, world-wide

Social isolation is a growing epidemic, one that’s increasingly recognized as having dire physical, mental and emotional consequences. 

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“We’re not meant to be lonely as a species,” said Paul Dolan, a professor of behavioral sciences at the London School of Economics. “If you were to think of the most significant interventions to improve life expectancy, after quitting smoking, it’s: Don’t be lonely.”

A recent study has found that more than half of U.S. adults, a staggering 58%, report feelings of loneliness. This alarming statistic sheds light on a growing issue in our society - the loneliness epidemic. Social isolation has been found to be a major contributor to a variety of health problems, and it costs the public enormous sums in unnecessary health costs. In fact, social isolation kills far more people in the West each year than terrorists and murderers. 


According to the VICELAND UK Census, loneliness is the number one fear of young people today—ranking ahead of losing a home or a job.  42% of Millennial women are more afraid of loneliness than a cancer diagnosis, by far the highest share of any generation.


This fear has been ingrained into the very language of Millennials,  like “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out), not satisfied with the quality of their relationships and its many companion terms. -- see FORBES Magazine Millennials And The Loneliness Epidemic


Social Media Use and Loneliness

It seems that social media usage increases when people feel lonely, but actually, it makes it worse. It's not just social media, but devices, smartphones, texting, virtual reality, remote work, artificial intelligence, and assistive technologies, to name just a few, contribute to this loneliness epidemic and  have quickly and dramatically changed how we live, work, communicate, and socialize.


These technologies are pervasive in our lives. Nearly all teens and adults under 65 (96-99%), and 75% of adults 65 and over, say that they use the internet extensively.  Americans spend an average of six hours per day on digital media. One-in-three U.S. adults 18 and over report that they are online “almost constantly,” and the percentage of teens ages 13 to 17 years who say they are online “almost constantly” has doubled since 2015.


When looking at social media specifically, the percentage of U.S. adults 18 and over who reported using social media increased from 5% in 2005 to roughly 80% in 2019.  Among teens ages 13 to 17 years, 95% report using social media as of 2022, with more than half reporting it would be hard to give up social media.

Our devices have become an integral part of our daily lives, and they are undoubtedly here to stay. However, as much as we rely on them, it is essential to manage our usage to prevent them from consuming our lives entirely. 


We have only seen the tip of the iceberg of what's coming in terms of technological advancements and the devices that will accompany them. Therefore, it is crucial to learn how to balance the utility of our devices with the potential dangers of overconsumption. By doing so, we can continue to benefit from the many advantages while avoiding the potential pitfalls that come with excessive usage.  We owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to strike the right balance and maintain a healthy relationship with our devices.


The consequences of loneliness are severe and can even lead to premature death. It's important for us to recognize the impact of social isolation and take steps to combat it, such as spending more time with loved ones and disconnecting from technology when possible. It is a worrying trend, as loneliness has been associated with various health issues, and it has been reported that it kills people. We urge people to take a break from their screens, and seek out meaningful human connections.

Admitting we’re lonely can feel as if we’re admitting we’ve failed in life’s most fundamental domains: belonging, love, attachment. It attacks our basic instincts to save face, and makes it hard to ask for help.

The loneliness of older adults has different roots — often resulting from family members moving away and close friends passing away. As one senior put it, “Your world dies before you do." When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

OK. That's the grim news about social Isolation and loneliness.


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