Who Are the Lonely?

By Ron Ross

More than one out of three adults 45 and older reported they were chronically lonely, according to a survey done by the AARP in 2010. The definition given for “chronically lonely” makes the report even sadder; chronically lonely means they have been lonely for a long time.

This loneliness persists in a Facebook world of a few authentic and an excess of fantasy friendships. In May, 2013 Facebook had over 1.19 billion active users worldwide with 4.5 billion “likes” generated daily with 78 million people logging on to it every day sharing 4.5 billion pieces of content, yet one out of three are still lonely.

Who are the lonely? Are you one of them?

Outsiders: The stranger, foreigner, outcast, and the recluse are lonely. Anyone whose parents moved them from one state to another in the 7th grade knows about outsider loneliness.

The elderly: This ever-growing demographic is becoming increasingly lonely due to fractured families, isolated living conditions, lack of mobility and decreasing health. If you have visited an elder-care facility lately you know this is true.

The less educated: The better educated are not as lonely as the less educated; a good reason to make sure your children get a good education.

The unemployed: They feel disconnected and useless as they waste their days watching TV and wander streets searching for meaning and purpose in life. Their despair intensifies with each employment application rejection and successive unemployment check.

Women are lonelier than men: I thought women had superior social skills, therefore would not be lonelier than men. But here’s an interesting twist to that fact, unmarried men are lonelier than unmarried women.

African Americans: They are lonelier than whites though I couldn’t find evidence as to why.

Retired people are lonelier than the employed: Work is good for the soul and for abating loneliness; a good reason to NOT retire.

Just because you’re not on the list does not mean you don’t feel lonely from time-to-time. You don’t have to live alone in a high-rise apartment, be isolated on a deserted island, or have all forms of communications cut off to be lonely. You can be lonely in the midst of a throng, at the top of your profession, and lonely even as you receive voluble accolades from a fawning audience.

Because loneliness persists in our crowded and busy world, it will take several weeks of columns to describe the issues, discuss the implications and suggest some cures for loneliness, so check back often. As we walk through this vital series, please feel free to write me about your loneliness, share your insights or ask questions and through it we will grow together. Email me at Dr.Ross@RonRossToday.com. You can read more about loneliness at www.RonRossToday.com.

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