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Are We Getting Lonelier?

Loneliness has been shown to have serious implications for your quality of life. Humans are interdependent and everyone needs some kind of human contact. Being isolated is not only distressing, but it means you have fewer resources to deal with problems, fewer people who can help you out when things go wrong. Loneliness has also been linked to increased risk of cancer, depression, obesity, and heart disease. In fact, loneliness increases your chances of death by about 25 percent.

Some studies indicate that we are actually getting lonelier. While people used to report that they had on average three people with whom they could discuss problems, that number has dropped to two people. That’s only one person, but it’s a 33 percent drop, which is alarming. Social networks are also getting smaller.

There are two main reasons experts believe we’re getting lonelier. The first, predictably, is the internet. People look at their phones instead of talking to their dates. They substitute social media for real social interaction. Games, TV, and movies are all tailored to individual interests and consumed individually. Now you can have your groceries delivered so you don’t even have to interact with strangers at the store. It’s probably true that virtual life and media customization are making us more isolated.

Another reason is that we’re more spread out than we used to be. Few people live near extended family. People move to different cities and different states. There are fewer public spaces. This is particularly true in the US, where everyone wants a big house with a big yard and a big TV. In some ways, this is good because it indicates greater affluence. The cost is that people are more cut off than they used to be.

Loneliness is of particular concern for people struggling with addiction or just starting recovery. About a third of people who feel lonely feel depressed as a result of loneliness. We experience loneliness as a kind of social pain. As with other kinds of pain, drugs and alcohol can alleviate the pain of loneliness temporarily. This can lead to a downward spiral of loneliness, depression, and self-medication. The pain of loneliness is supposed to prod you to connect with other people, but too often, people go for the quick fix.

If you’re in recovery, loneliness can make it hard to stay sober. If you feel isolated, like one one really cares whether you stay sober, you are at greater risk of relapse. This is one reason going to regular meetings is so important. Even if you don’t feel like anyone at your group could be your best friend, at least you can connect on the topic of addiction. They understand what you’re going through. A big part of loneliness is feeling that you can’t talk to someone about important problems, but at meetings there is always someone who will listen.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.