LONELINESS IN THE WORLD. Years ago, I read the haunting observation that loneliness is the biggest social problem in America, but that loneliness is not generally thought of as a social problem because there isn’t anything the government can do about it. Eight years ago, I posted on this observation here. At the time, I thought that technology would help because the internet provides an opportunity for people to have contact with people who are physically distant as well as the opportunity to have contact with people who have shared interests and attitudes.
This essay by Sam Juric at thewalrus website discusses loneliness as a major social problem today. The subtitle of the essay is: “We’re more lonely today than at any other point in recorded history….” Juric reports that recently there has been recognition that loneliness threatens public health. In 2017, the annual convention of the American Psychological Association focused on “data that reveal that loneliness and social isolation pose an equal, if not greater, danger to public health than such common risk factors as smoking, obesity, and substance abuse.” And a Brigham Young study with 3 million participants found that “increased social connection is linked to a 50 percent reduced risk of premature death. Put another way: when it comes to a heightened risk of mortality, loneliness is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”