The Epidemic of Loneliness
This epidemic is loneliness. And that sounds kind of silly, maybe, if you don't take it seriously. Well, an epidemic of loneliness. Oh, yeah, what are you gonna do, die of being lonely? Well, yes, actually.
It turns out that people are. Loneliness, which is defined as a feeling of isolation, and social isolation, which is like an objective measure, that you just don't have a lot of connections with people. Those are proving to be really deadly. They increase the risk of premature death by 26 and 29 percent.
And social isolation increases the risk of death as much as smoking 15 cigarettes every day. Heart disease increases 29 percent. Strokes, 32 percent. Anxiety, depression, dementia, all those shoot up.
And all of these health consequences are worse for people who are old, for people who are poor.
Hyper-Individualism and Its Impact
And so what happened? How do these huge changes across all kinds of things happen? I would suggest, and a lot of researchers and theologians agree, that a big factor is there's a new spirit of hyper-individualism. This has become something that defines American life in a new way since like the 80s or so. People are just extremely individualistic. And that means we spend our lives searching for personal success, for achievement above everything else.
You've got to get what you need to get. You're your achievements. You build your destiny. You are solely responsible for what happens to you.
You can see how that can erode a sense of community if you've got to deal with yourself. As some of you with kids or grandkids might know, there's an entire career now called influencer. The whole job is to maintain your personal brand of being cool or interesting or beautiful on social media so you can sell stuff.