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Loneliness and social isolation: possibly deadlier than obesity, according to research

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Loneliness can be scientifically linked to a significantly increased risk of premature death. This is according to a study by Brigham Young University . Author Julianne Holt-Lunstad notes that “ Substantial evidence now indicates that individuals with lack of social ties are at risk of premature death. †

Holt-Lunstad believes the risks associated with loneliness outweigh the identified dangers of obesity:

Several decades ago, scientists noticed widespread changes in diet and behavior† They issued warnings about obesity and related health problems. The current obesity epidemic has been predicted. Obesity now receives continuous attention in the media and in public health policy.

The current state of research on the risks of loneliness and social isolation is comparable to that of research on obesity 30 years ago… Current evidence indicates that the increased risk of death from lack of social relationships is greater than the risk of obesity. †

She also warns that “researchers have predicted that loneliness will be an epidemic by 2030 if we don’t act now.”

Loneliness and social isolation

Why do we become so isolated from each other?

In the long term, we can say that Western civilization as a whole encourages a gradual dissolution of our physical and social ties. With an emphasis on individual goals and an almost fanatical importance of personal success, the traditional institutions of family and community, and their ability to provide their members with togetherness and a shared purpose, have been completely shattered.

The family is no longer a large system in which different generations support each other, but a small and immediate family, sometimes with single parents for whom it is very difficult to create a stable home environment for their children. Added to this is the fact that more and more people are not even starting a family. The result: Never before in history have so many people lived alone as now in our society. This includes the elderly , who have never ‘fitted’ so badly in the lives of their children’s families.

The demise of the ‘community’ is perhaps as important as the dissolution of the family. In Western communities, people work as a collection of individual units that respond with specific functions, rather than as a cohesive whole with an important shared identity. Of course, countless attempts are made today to build or join ‘communities’.

But entirely in line with the Meetup model, they are created with the goal of gathering people with similar interests and goals, rather than a shared acceptance of all people within a certain geographic area.

The Rise of Social Media

I believe that the rise of social media stems in part from our sense of alienation that we have felt for so long within our modern society. I don’t think that social media is the cause of our loneliness, as some claim, but rather a symptom of this social problem that has been around for much longer. Connecting through chats and websites is something we’ve made a habit of because it’s so easy to get to.

But like any short-term solution, it doesn’t do enough for our deeper needs. Not for us as individuals, nor at the level of society.

If we recognize that our society has been slowly decomposing for hundreds of years, it is up to us as a society (if we can identify with our ‘society’ at all) to take measures and counteract this situation. Although we are not yet sure what those measures should be, if we look at the current trend.

About loneliness

Loneliness ObesityOne approach is to first admit that the individual emphasis of Western society is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I believe that the development of personal integrity, creativity and autonomy is a crucial step in the evolution of human consciousness. Learning how to be alone with yourself is part of that process.

In his work Pensées , the French philosopher Blaise Pascal stated that “ The problems of all mankind arise from our inability to sit quietly alone in a room ”.

As has been proven by gurus and mystics of the East, it is quite possible to be content in isolation. Meditation and other such methods are of great help here, which give us a direct insight into our energetic connection.

Not just with other people, but with all things. In this higher state of consciousness, you do not experience the harmful emotional consequences of loneliness and social isolation.

Our next step

But the yogi’s life seems fit for few. The rest of us apparently came to this planet to socialize, to share, and to love. And we didn’t incarnate on this dense physical world to get better at maintaining virtual relationships.

At this point, we may have become more used to social isolation than is good for us.

Holt-Lunstad explains that “ While living alone provides a number of comforts and benefits to an individual, this meta-analysis shows that physical health is not one of them. She also cites another study showing ” higher survival rates for those with more social ties.” And then there’s the groundbreaking 75-year study from Harvard, in which it was “universally clear that men in the study were not happy without love and supportive relationships .” The message is clear: we need to come closer together.

This may be a greater turning point in our development than most of us think. It seems that we have reached the limit in the exploration of individualism, and that we are ready to find a greater balance with a collective identity. That will not be a return to the traditional state of affairs, but a synthesis of our growth as individuals with the shared experiences we now crave. This synthesis is the next stage in our evolution.

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