The US is now experiencing an “epidemic” of loneliness, according to a study released by Cigna last month.
Does anyone else in your life share your concerns for the future?
Is there someone you talk with regularly about the unsustainability of our current economic and ecological trajectories?
Do you have friends and/or family members who support your efforts to develop a more resilient lifestyle?
If you answered “no” to these questions, you’re not an outlier. In fact, the #1 most commonly-reported complaint we hear from Peak Prosperity readers is that they feel alone and isolated when it comes to the warnings delivered in The Crash Course.
The end of economic growth. Declining net energy. Accelerating resource depletion. These are MASSIVE existential threats to our way of life — to our species’ survival, even. Most PPers can’t comprehend why *everyone* isn’t obessively talking about these dangers.
But very few people are. Truthfully, most don’t want to; for a wide variety of reasons.
So that leaves us, the conscientious critical thinkers, alone by ourselves to worry and plan.
Does this sound like you? If so, read on…
Wired For Connection
Humans are biologically wired for social connection.
Until just recently, historically-speaking, humans typically existed in small tribal groups of 30-60 people, where the degree of unity and cohesiveness of the group directly determined its odds of survival. Facing constant adversity from the weather, predators, other tribes, etc — every member of the group had a role and a duty to perform.
We’ve delved into this topic deeply in the past, particularly in our podcast with Peabody Award-winning author Sebastian Junger.
In his book Tribe, Junger observes how far modern life is from the conditions our distant ancestors evolved from. We are so dis-connected from each other now that the lack of community is manifesting in alarming ways in today’s society.
Junger focuses on the challenges that soldiers, Peace Corps volunteers, war refugees, and others who have similarly banded together under adverse conditions — as our distant ancestors did — face when re-integrating into peaceful, civilian life. Depression, addiction and suicide are all-too common responses as they struggle to find meaning in their daily lives, which now feel unfulfillingly superficial and lonesome compared to the “real-ness” and “alive-ness” they’d experienced before.
Despite the often-horrible conditions they were subject to, many guiltily admit to Junger that they preferred life under duress — facing threats like bullets, disease, or cancer. What does that reflect about quality of life in our current society?
In the case of US veterans, they’re committing suicide at the rate of over 20 deaths per day — nearly one every hour. And they’re dying of opioid drug overdoses at twice the rate of the civilian population. While there are many reasons behind this, Junger is convinced from his research that “leaving the tribal closeness of the military and returning to an alienating and bitterly divided modern society” is a root cause.
An Epidemic Of Loneliness
This alienation and division isn’t only being felt by veterans.
In a world of digital devices and social media, our interaction with other humans is becoming increasingly virtual. In the sprawl of suburbia, we live in densly-packed cul-de-sacs yet hardly know our next-door neighbors’ names. The fast-growing wealth gap is forcing the 99% to work harder just to make ends meet, leaving little time left in the week for socializing or family interaction.
The US is now experiencing an “epidemic” of loneliness, according to a study released by Cigna last month. Perhaps not surprising given that their cohort is the first to grow up with smartphones in hand, those in Generation Z are the worst off:
Loneliness among Americans has reached “epidemic levels,” according to health service company Cigna’s U.S. Loneliness Index, released Tuesday.
The index, which surveyed over 20,000 U.S. adults, found that nearly half of survey respondents reported sometimes or always feeling alone (46 percent) or left out (47 percent) and younger generations feel much lonelier than older ones.
For Cigna’s report, survey respondents were evaluated on their loneliness using the UCLA Loneliness Scale, a 20-item questionnaire that was developed to assess subjective feelings of loneliness and social isolation.
Gen Z adults surveyed (ages 18 to 22), are the loneliest, according to the report. More than half of Gen Zers identified with 10 of the 11 feelings associated with loneliness, according to the survey, including feeling like people around them are not really with them (69 percent), feeling shy (69 percent) and feeling like no one really knows them well (68 percent).
“While we know that this is a group that is making life changes, these findings give us a surprising understanding of how this generation perceives themselves,” Douglas Nemecek, M.D., chief medical officer for Behavioral Health at Cigna, tells CNBC Make It in an email. “It’s something that we need to explore to understand how we can address it. And that’s what we’re planning to do.”