CAMBRIDGE – This week a British newspaper published an article about how connected we are, or better how connected we are not. Under the title “In touch but losing touch: how the ‘connected’ generation are getting lonelier” we are reminded of the fact that “real human interaction is becoming rarer in an era when social media keeps people constantly updated on the minutiae of friends’ lives”. And that where it was often thought that elderly people would suffer most from loneliness, research has found that loneliness is increasing among the younger generation:
“We are meant to be more “connected” than ever in an era of mobile communications but new research suggests that millions of us feel we now have less and less direct contact with other people. A survey found that almost four in 10 people feel they now have less daily interaction with people they know than they did just five years ago while only one seven feel they have more.
Even when people do interact with others outside of the workplace, it is more likely to be through a phone call or text message than traditional direct face-to-face contact, including seeing partners or family at home. And one in six people only experience social interaction with others once a week or less.
The findings emerge from polling carried out for “The Big Lunch”, a project to encourage neighbours to get together through events such as street parties, examining the idea of loneliness.
It follows warnings from ministers that Britain is facing an “epidemic” of loneliness, particularly among the elderly as people live longer than ever before while families are more spread out than ever.
But a series of studies have indicated that young people often feel loneliness more acutely than the older generation, despite being surrounded by friends.
Dr Rebecca Harris, a psychologist at the University of Bolton, who examined the results said: “Loneliness is far more complicated than people imagine. It’s often seen as a one dimensional state, either ‘lonely’ or ‘not lonely’ and that just isn’t the case. It can be a temporary state, but when prolonged, it’s a serious issue. Research shows that our brains treat loneliness in the same way as physical pain and it has been associated with poor mental and physical health, so it’s important that people take steps to overcome loneliness.”
From a Relational Thinking point of view we talk about “Relational Lifestyle” which is all about how you spend your time: “Every decision we make will have relational consequences. Big decisions about how many hours you commute and where you live will impact on home and family life. But so will smaller decisions. For example, does using a microwave stagger individual mealtimes, or create more leisure for eating and talking? In what ways do mobile phones help you maintain relationships, and in what ways do they interfere with important face-time?”‘