Loneliness is a Real Big Problem
For much of the world in this new digital, social media age, we are progressively getting lonelier and lonelier. We are investing time from our lives into our digital lives. This is taking away the essence of life as a human and letting our conscious become overwhelmed with stimulating information and our online persona. Here I suggest the real root issues with loneliness and how to solve it.
When Did Loneliness Start Becoming A Big Deal?
One study states that loneliness in the 1970s was around 11% to 17% whereas now in the 21st century, loneliness has increased to over 40% in middle-aged and older adults. (Cacioppo, et. al.) Loneliness is defined as to when there "corresponds to a discrepancy between an individual's preferred and actual social relations" (Peplua & Perlman, 1982). Us social creatures not only require not only just the presence of others, but more specifically, we desire the ability to trust others, who give them a goal in life, and someone they can plan, interact, and work together with to survive (J.T. Cacioppo & Patrick, 2008). This desire for a meaningful connection to others is being degraded by our desire to find this connection in online substitutes. However, online interactions can never give quite the same effect of person to person interactions in the flesh. We did not evolve to be solitary lone wolves. We survived to where we are in life by being social. Thus, we need to be around other humans, and like previously said, create meaningful relationships with others.
The Dimensions of Loneliness
- Intimate Loneliness: The perceived absence of a significant someone. Marital status, emotional connection, emotional support for adults
- Relational Loneliness: "Social loneliness" perceived absence of quality friendships or family connections--"sympathy group"
- Collective Loneliness: refers to a person's valued social identities or "active network" (group, school, team, national identity). Being able to connect to people in the collective space available.
- (Hawkley, Brown, & Cacioppo, 2005; Hawkley,Gu, Luo, & Cacioppo, 2012)
The researchers state that "these three dimensions match the three dimensions surrounding one's attentional space" (Hall, 1963, 1966l Fig. 1)
- Intimate Space: the closest surrounding a person
- Social Space: the space in which people feel comfortable interacting with family and acquaintances
- Public Space: a more anonymous space.
Solutions to Loneliness
- One-one-one interventions like befriending or mentoring
- Group therapy like groups of lonely people
- Wider community interventions like community events reaching out to lonely person/s.
As the researchers state: "loneliness is not only about getting support, it is also about giving support back and mutual aid". (Cacioppo, et. al.)
More Options for Solving Loneliness...
- Increase people's opportunities for social interactions
- Teaching social skills.
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy within the framework of solving loneliness involves educating individuals to see the automatic negative thoughts that intrude their mind and to regard these negative thoughts as possible false that should be looked at again with reason and facts to verify the validity of the concern.
People Do Not Voluntarily Become Lonely
They "find themselves on one edge of the continuum of social connections" (S. Cacioppo & Cacioppo, 2012) feeling desperately isolated.
The first step towards progress is to increase public awareness of this growing issue. It is important to our health and can directly impact our quality of life. It is not to be taken lightly or stigmatized.
The Risk of Not Treating Loneliness
The problem with loneliness doesn't just stop with depression or sadness. People tend to want to fix their problems. This hereon promotes the self-regulatory disorders that are further detrimental to our health:
- substace abuse
- eating disorders
- emotional disorders
- venereal disease
- unintended pregnancy
- school failure
- crime & delinquency
- misbehavior in family
- financial saving failure
- marital conflict
- impulse control disorders
These are the real issues we are facing when we talk about loneliness. These are the real world implications of loneliness. I restate, it is not to be taken lightly. These issues are now affecting more than 40% of the middle-aged adult population. If you are one of these people, you are not alone. You are not forgotten, and you have the power within you to fix your situation in a healthy and productive manner. Continue to think differently.
- Cacioppo, S, Grippo, Aj, London, S, Goossens, L, & Cacioppo, Jt. (2015). Loneliness: Clinical Import and Interventions. Perspectives On Psychological Science, 10(2), 238-249.
- Zahra Nikmanesh, Yahya Kazemi, & Masoume Khosravi. (2015). Role of Feeling of Loneliness and Emotion Regulation Difficulty on Drug Abuse. Journal of Community Health Research, 4(1), 55-64.