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Why Are We So Lonely?

1 in 4 Americans say they have no one to confide in.

The stereotype is the lonely older person with no one to talk to.  Turns out it is younger people who feel truly isolated.

People over 50 scored best on the survey of 2000 adults by OnePoll and BetterHelp.  The older adults were more secure discussing personal problems and reaching out to trusted partners.

People aged 18 to 30, however, were desperate for a compassionate ear.  They scored the worst on measures of finding someone to confide in.

Maybe it’s just an old guy talking, but when we people over 50 were younger we were schooled well in interpersonal relationships.  There was no texting and no social media.  We had to make true human connections.

People under 30 have been consumed by technology that, while promising to bring people closer together, actually drives people apart with walls erected around emotions and longing.

Everybody tries to look good on social media.  You can’t cry on the shoulder of a smart phone.  Deep conversations die in a world of texts and tweets.

Unfortunately, the survey reveals that 9 in 10 people have downplayed emotions so that they don’t feel like a burden on people they love.  Even after confiding in a trusted partner, 7 in 10 still said they held back from the true weight of their despair.

People just don’t want to place too many demands on those close to them, if they have anyone close to them at all.

One-half of those surveyed (53%) have cried alone in their car.  It’s tragic to feel so isolated.

Such loneliness leads to high levels of stress and physical illness.  Studies show that chronic loneliness increases rates of heart disease and suppresses the immune system, and it wreaks havoc on people’s mental health.

Chronic loneliness even increases one’s risk of an early death by 14%

There are three types of loneliness.  The first is situational loneliness.  This comes when moving to a new area, job or school or even facing a schedule change that makes it difficult to spend time with friends and family.

Developmental loneliness occurs when others around you are moving up and moving on, and you just feel stuck.

Internal loneliness strikes when, even with friends or family, a person feels isolated and outcast. One may feel alone in any and every situation.

The difficulty in ending feelings of loneliness is, even when feeling isolated or ignored, the lonely person is going to have to reach out to others to break the cycle of suffering by oneself.

It’s not a cliché to state that being kind to others will bring others to you.  Compassion for those around you will make you feel better and bring people into your life.  Kindness is contagious.

It helps, too, to find people who share interests with you.  Clubs and meetups can be great places to enter a community and feel less alone.

Finally, when it feels like people have failed you, a pet can bring some unconditional companionship into your life.

As with so many things in life, one has to open up and make some effort to improve their situation.  If you’re lonely, reach out to someone.

Be honest.  Ask for help.  You’ll surely find people willing to be there for you.

Therapy can help too. The survey cited above has some interesting things to say about how people feel about that.  I’ll write on those findings in my post on Friday.

Why Are We So Lonely?


George Hofmann

After much of a life spent in and out of hospitals, jobs, and relationships, George has spent the last dozen years living successfully with bipolar disorder 1. He teaches meditation as an adjunct therapy for mental illness, and writes and speaks about the therapies of meditation, movement, and meaningful work. Visit George at www.practicingmentalillness.com or join the Facebook group Practicing Mental Illness


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APA Reference
Hofmann, G. (2019). Why Are We So Lonely?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2019, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/older-bipolar/2019/09/why-are-we-so-lonely/

 

Last updated: 8 Sep 2019
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network (blogs.psychcentral.com) prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.