What role does loneliness play in our lives? I’ve always believed that most of us feel lonely at times, and that many people (myself included) enjoy being alone. I also believed that those feelings of loneliness pass and that being alone is a conscience choice. “An Epidemic of Loneliness” (that’s a pretty scary title) which appears in a recent issue of The Week gives us some alarming statistics concerning loneliness. These statistics have given me cause to rethink my beliefs.
There are several points and assertions in the essay that I’m not going to address here (but I think they are worthy of lengthy discussion). I do want to reflect on two points I found interesting. These points concern the definition of loneliness and a Cigna Insurance report regarding loneliness. The essay uses a definition of loneliness that is accepted by social scientists. Basically, if an individual feels lonely then the individual is lonely. Although I don’t disagree with this definition I feel it stops short at addressing the possible reasons why people feel lonely. Understanding the reasons why people feel lonely is important once you look at the Cigna report. Cigna Insurance reported 47% of 20,000 people feel alone or left out, and 13% said that zero people knew them well. We don’t know why the people surveyed feel lonely (or the parameters/validity of the survey) but these are some alarming numbers if we take them at face value. So, what to make of these observations? First, there are an awful lot of people who are lonely, and it doesn’t appear to be a loneliness that will pass. Second, current methods of identifying and addressing loneliness need to be rethought. Finally, some serious time and effort needs to be invested into finding out why people are feeling lonely and assisting them.
Loneliness appears to playing an important role in many lives. If nearly half of all people are dealing with feelings of loneliness as the Cigna report states, then some serious steps need to be taken to address the issue before loneliness becomes a way of life.
“An Epidemic of Loneliness” The Week 1.11.19