Loneliness; A Pandemic Worse Than Covid?

‘Imagine a condition that makes you irritable, depressed & self-centred. Now imagine that it’s associated with a 26% increase in the risk of you dying prematurely!!!! Imagine now that in the industrialised world (the west) ? of people are affected by it with 1:12 affected severely. Now imagine that it is real & not imagined!!! This is a real issue & the numbers are increasing, there is no protection from it due to income, education, sex, status or ethnicity, it’s also highly contagious. This condition is not attributable to some peculiarity of your character or to a subset of individuals, they are as a result of the condition affecting ordinary people like you and me. What is this condition called? Loneliness.

Doctors know without a shadow of a doubt that chronic loneliness is associated with elevated risks of illness & early death & increases mortality from cancer & other diseases, it is comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes per day.

A 2015 study found it to be a public health risk at least as great as the burgeoning rates of obesity. It can impair genetic function too. Social isolation inhibits the immune system, promotes inflammation which is the trigger for a slew of conditions such as arthritis, it agitates the stress apparatus & increases the risk of death from heart disease & stroke – that’s because it affects the heart chakra.

If this was the state of things pre-Covid, what are they like now? Covid has cost the well-being of many more people.

Why is it so bad? We’ve lost so many communal spaces such as libraries, we’ve seen huge cuts in services for the elderly & vulnerable. We’ve seen the rise of stress, poverty & the inexorable monopolisation of economic life which all shreds local communities.

Let’s take an example of this in action; a big shopping mall or superstore opens, the developers & politicians are happy, new shoppers are welcomed, they’re happy at having a wide variety of goods at lower prices available to them. Small, locally owned businesses cannot compete so they close. People lose their jobs or have to find lower paid work. The neighbourhood is now stripped of the normal shops; butcher, baker, candlestick maker etc. People no longer walk to the local shops, where they meet & greet each other or the merchants they know, instead they jump in their cars & drive to the superstore or shopping mall, mostly on their own, and normally to a place miles from where they live. Often these days, people order from the comfort of their own home, why bother if you don’t need to?

In the USA the number of people who identify as lonely has doubled from 20% to 40% since the 1980’s. In the UK it’s such an issue we have a Minister of Loneliness.

We spend our lives in competition; jobs, status, possessions, our reputation. We strive to stay ahead & to stay afloat, with our prized relationships being neglected in the process of doing so.

Our fixation with all things material is leading to depression, anxiety & addiction amongst those whose values are led by a consumer society. Capitalism encourages values based on self-interest, a strong desire for financial success, high levels of consumption & interpersonal styles based on competition (sounds very narcissistic too). The more the materialistic concerns are focused on the prosocial values such as empathy, generosity & co-operation decline. When people strongly endorse money, image & status they are less likely to engage in ecologically beneficial  activities, the emptier & more insecure they experience themselves to be. They will have lower-quality interpersonal relationships. In turn, the more insecure they are, so the more they focus on material things. As materialism promises satisfaction but instead yields hollow dissatisfaction, it creates more craving. This addictive spiral is one of the mechanisms by which consumer society preserves itself by exploiting the very insecurities it generates.

Disconnection in all its guises – alienation, loneliness, loss of meaning & dislocation, is becoming our culture’s most plentiful product. No wonder we are more addicted, chronically ill & mentally disordered than ever before, enfeebled as we are by such malnourishment of the mind, body & soul.

Did you know how important it is to be connected? Even taking Covid out of the equation we are not connected enough, your health is dependent on your connectedness. This will be even worse for the younger generation as they don’t even seem to form the relationships like we did before we had technology.

This was taken from the book ‘The Myth of Being Normal’ by Gabor Mate MD

So get off your computers, away from the TV, put down your phone & go make friendships.

#loneliness #communityiskey #coachingwithtracyfance

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