Only the Lonely, the Growing Millions of Lonely That Is

2010-10-03 | |
Last updated: 2010-10-03

Even the most popular and outgoing among us will, on occasion, face the specter of loneliness when everyone around us seems involved in his or her own activities and we have not been included. As a highly social species, we humans generally like to have company on a regular basis. For some, this may involve large groups of people and for others it will involve only close friends or family. Such regular interactions certainly make for a more interesting life, but an ever growing amount of evidence also shows that avoiding loneliness is also important for our health.

Unfortunately the rates of loneliness are increasing.

Why Are Loneliness Rates Increasing?

Because people who are lonely tend, by definition, not to communicate with others as much as those who are not lonely, statistics on loneliness are hard to find. As a consequence, researchers often judge the level of loneliness on the basis of community involvement and the number of individuals living in single person households.

Loneliness From Living Alone

Quite clearly, this is not a highly accurate measure because many people living in single-family households could be feeling quite connected to others and some people sharing accommodation could also feel lonely.

Despite the uncertainties in using these measures, they do currently represent one of the known ways to assess loneliness. As a result, the slowly increasing trend in the number of people living alone means that loneliness is affecting more of us. With roughly 27% of Canadians, 27% of those in the US, and 24% of Australians living alone, it is likely that a significant percentage of the population is feeling all alone.

Fewer Confidants Makes Us Lonely

Other research also shows an increase in loneliness as measured by the number of confidants that individuals have. Based on their studies, researchers from Duke University found that between 1985 and 2004, the average number of people that an individual had to talk to on important personal matters decreased from almost 3 to just over 2. During that same period, the number of people who depend completely on their significant other as a confidant almost doubled.

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Category: Disease Prevention, General Health, Health Risks, Symptom Information

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