Urbanization and an Epidemic of Loneliness

LINKEDIN_TILE_LONELYBy Heather Dugan,, Connection Coach,  June 1, 2015 – There are more of us wedged into less space with global urbanization on a steady increase. Here in the U.S., more than three-quarters of us live in densely developed areas. A full 91% of the adult population owns a personal phone—most of us with Internet and social media access as well. With such proximity and opportunity—connecting has never been so easy.

But so elusive…

An AARP survey found that the number of adults describing themselves as “lonely” has doubled since the 1980’s. “Loneliness” has been called Britain’s “hidden epidemic.” It impacts young and old alike in AustraliaIndia and here at home in the US. Somehow, with more available avenues than ever, we’re lonelier than ever.

We point at the divorce rate. “Uncoupling”—conscious or otherwise—amongst those over age 50 in the US has more than doubled since 1990. But this growing loneliness isn’t just the sum result of romantic disconnections.

Any number of circumstances can untether us from those around us: job loss, relocation, illness, depression, increased Internet use coupled with a social media focus… Some individuals may lack critical EQ abilities or, perhaps, find that the interactional skills of their youth are outdated, stranding them in social obsolescence. Young married moms, empty nesters, college grads launching careers in new locales (or from mom and dad’s basement), children of divorced parents—reluctant to make lasting romantic commitments…none of us are immune, and it can encroach on any stage of life.

“By the time you get home from work and spend a little time with the family, there’s nothing left,” a young receptionist told me recently as her coworkers nodded in agreement. My weekly gathering of Cabernet Coaches intrigued them. “Is it an open group?” one asked. “I’d love something like that!”

“We’re just a bunch of women—friends—who hang out together,” I responded, handing her my card.

Yes, it’s hard to find time for friendships. When life piles on, we tend to streamline our focus to work and home, investing most of our energy into the immediate emergency. But this tire patch of a solution is shortsighted and ultimately diminishing. Building a foundation of connective friendships will, ultimately, make the journey more enjoyable and worthwhile.