Adults are lonelier than ever. Luckily we've found the cure...
This just in: 2018’s adult population are really lonely.
This fairly shocking truth comes from a YouGov poll – which revealed that more than half (54%) of UK adults haven’t made a new friend in ‘a long time’. 7 in 10 confirmed that they know someone who is lonely, and most heartbreakingly of all 92% of the lonely population said they find it difficult to tell others that they feel isolated.
Attach ALL of this to the recent ONS findings that young people are more lonely than ever before, and it’s a very sad state of affairs indeed.
While these stats might sound pretty shocking, I think it’s actually pretty easy to see how this problem has grown and manifested itself in our society.
I probably wouldn’t describe myself as a ‘lonely’ person. I’m blessed in the sense that most of my friends from school and uni live in the same city as me (London), and I’ve been lucky to pick up new ones through jobs/extended social circles since I got here. I’m a flatsharer too, which always promises some company.
But even as a 25-year old with an active social life, there are gaps in my daily routine where I can see the threat of loneliness creeping in.
The alarm goes off every morning, and I’ll spend the usual 1hr+ beautifying, eating and trying to squeeze a too-big lunchbox into a too-small handbag. My flatmate and I both work full-time in busy marketing jobs, and our conflicting schedules mean we’ll rarely cross paths in the morning (she’s a late-riser, I’m an early bird).
I undergo a daily commute of a lengthy 50mins – which always means a LOT of headphone/podcast time, because talking to strangers on public transport is obvs the ultimate social faux pas… When I get off the train I’ll walk to the office (8mins), which also naturally involves ignoring the hundreds of other strangers in my path. While I imagine driving a car to work makes you feel a little less ‘alone in a crowd’, I know a lot of commutes are conducted solo and rarely involve chat.
Fortunately the working day is a buzzier affair, because the SpareRoom office is obviously FULL of great people – but interaction with my colleagues is often the first time I’ll have spoken to anyone all day. Afternoon rolls around and I’m soon back in the tube bubble again, where there are (once again) hundreds of other silent strangers around me. All are ignored in favour of another podcast.
At this point I’ll either go to the gym for an hour (only breaking my silence to ask sweaty strangers how many reps they have left), or head home to tackle some life admin – in my house the laundry never ends, the washing up is never done and I’m pretty sure my hoover/dirty floor cycle is just taking the p*ss out of me now. If I have the energy/money I’ll meet up with a friend for a drink/dinner, but I’m not as adventurous on school nights as my 21-year-old self was and mid-week hangovers suck.
This is the part where I’m lucky to live with a flatmate, because if I didn’t my evenings would become another stretch of time where I don’t utter a single word to anyone. Having a companion to offload the day’s triumphs, dramas and stresses to is the quickest way to crush any feeling of isolation. Having someone’s chatter to punctuate the dish drying makes the job quicker. Plus Made in Chelsea + flatmate is always more interesting than trying to dissect each episode alone…
And while I’m certainly not claiming that my routine is representative of the majority, there are some proof points in there. The same YouGov survey also revealed that 65% of people blamed chores for stopping them from making connections with others, and 49% cited their busy lives as the reason why they don’t make new friends.
So we’re lonely, our jobs/lives are keeping us seriously busy, and when we do get home we’re swapping down time and socialising for chores. What exactly can be done about this problem?
The survey has paved the way for a “Campaign to End Loneliness” – focussing on creating small moments of connection in our day-to-day lives to help combat isolation. And this is great – there’s no doubt that making small talk with strangers at the bus stop can help boost your mood. But what about thinking a little bigger? What about creating some small connected moments every day in your own home instead?
The answer to loneliness? It’s simple: get a flatmate…or two, or three, or a whole houseful. Come home to them every night. Chat. Share your problems, share your stories and jokes. Share your space and share your kitchen/living room. Share your time – those mornings and evenings sandwiched around your routine, that are often so long and lonely without the buzz of a companion to cut through the silence.
It is my fundamental belief that life is better when it’s shared with someone else. And doing just this could well be the cure to the growing loneliness epidemic – in both old and young generations.
I guess it’s your call: go home to laundry and Netflix for one tonight, or share some pasta and a working day anecdotes with the other half of your home instead?
It’s a no-brainer for me...
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