Did you know that Great Britain’s parliament has a Minister of Loneliness? Well, not really. They have a Minister of Sport and Civil Society. Following the release of report which said that 20% of English citizens feel lonely most or all of the time, British Prime Minister Theresa May added addressing an epidemic of loneliness to the list of the responsibilities of this ministerial branch. Tracey Crouch leads the Ministry of Sport and Civil Society which caused the British Press to dub Crouch “The Minister of Loneliness”.
It may, on the surface, seem frivolous. Why, in light of much more serious health challenges, would a nation devote money and resources to something that seems as “solve-able” as loneliness? I mean…just pick up the phone and call someone, right? First of all, the Brits are very much ahead of all of us. There are very real social and economic costs to loneliness and isolation. Researchers believe that the health impact of loneliness is more lethal than obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Lonely people are less productive people. But researchers also admit that when doing surveys of the general public to assess the levels of loneliness that they don’t use the “L” word. Why?
I can admit I’m loud. I can admit I’m overweight. I can admit I’m exhausted, sick, angry, or addicted. Why is it so hard to admit I’m lonely? That’s a very pertinent question — especially in recent weeks where COVID-19 isolation has been mandated. Why don’t we just pick up the phone and call someone? Heather Dugan is the Author of “The Friendship Upgrade” a book born out of her own quest for real connection with others. “Loneliness feels shameful, “ says Heather. “We see being separated from people as judgement on our likability.”
Loneliness unfairly equates to being unloved, unliked, and without social connection. In an age of “every-day-is-a-Disney-day” promotion of our lives on social media, the lonely fear that by admitting they are NOT living in the Magic Kingdom they are also drawing a picture of themselves as unliked, unloved, or unworthy of both. Dugan says that social media gives the illusion of being connected, but we are really not. “It’s one-sided,” says Heather. “We are looking in on the lives of others but there is no connection, and that isolation only exacerbates our loneliness. We are trading real facial expression for emojis.” If we only knew, really knew, the vast numbers of people who are just like us living in bouts of loneliness (yes, even the selfie-Mom with perfect kids who finds time to write the perfect blog) we might feel more comfortable being the first to raise our hands.
It’s also important to realize that human beings haven’t changed. YOU are not “broken” because you are lonely. Our DNA wires us for connection. Past cultures “fed” that wiring with front porches, book clubs, bowling leagues and families who stayed in the same zip code. Cultural changes move kids far away, put us in front of computers by day and Netflix by night. Many times our only “social” interaction is with the coworkers with whom we exchange a few pleasantries.
Next week in House Call I will touch on the “cure”! It takes courage. But you can do it!
This blog is written by Kathy Chiero. The Kathy Chiero Group, Keller Williams Greater Columbus is the proud sponsor of DownSize Columbus and Central Ohio’s top real estate team. Find us at www.OurOhioHome.com.
Heather Dugan’s Book “The Friendship Upgrade” is available on Amazon at the link below: