Social isolation is increasing studies are showing, loneliness is growing, and it’s shown in research to increase the risk of death by 26%, of course if you are unhappy then its shown in copious amounts of research to affect health and the care of yourself, so these statistics shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone.
From the time of Norman Tebbit when we were told to get on our bikes, I know of high numbers of people of my age group who are far away from home, from where they were born, due to the pursuit of work and our more transient culture where location is no longer an issue and the world is our oyster.
So those community, family bonds and ties, which would of naturally given us the support, advice, wisdom and help is no longer available for many. But this isn’t the only issue from my perspective.
Our culture is becoming one of increasing isolation in other ways, where we spend more time with our computers and devices alone, than we do actually with each other., well often we are around others but not interacting with them. A few years ago when I had my dog I would walk her in the late evening, passing the homes where everyone was facing the same way, towards their family TV’s, staring at the box in the corner. Every house had the light that emanates from their TV’s and the conversation is little, as people use it to zone out for the night. Now everyone not only has the family TV but with our increasing culture of individualism we are experiencing the TV in every room, with multiple devices from phones to tablets, to computers, all able to take our experience away from the family social interaction to one of isolation but with our ‘friends’ online. Sitting next to each other, but not really being with each other, and just to emphasise a point, I read a piece of research that outlined how so many people were now looking at their phones during sex! But this isn’t the only reason for extended isolation time, homework is now taking children away from their families for longer and longer periods, in some cases up to 1-1.5 hours each evening.
When I was a child we didn’t have hour’s of homework each night, or TV’s in our bedrooms, in fact for a lot of our childhood we didn’t have one, we played outside a lot, and played games or read when we couldn’t! But we did finally in our teens get a record player, then the obligatory cassette player, remember sitting and taping John Peel and the Charts weekly to make the latest compilation tape and eventually the ghetto blaster, which left us having this social interaction with my parents. “Turn it down”….roll of the eyes…”er now”….they didn’t like The Dead Kennedy’s any more than I liked Abba.
As devices have become more accessible financially, so they have become more individualised, we are all encouraged to own one, and from all the pictures on Facebook of kid’s sat together in a room and from personal experience of those around me, they are all now interacting on line, on their devices rather than in person. In fact a bit like some of my clients explaining how they have to make a different meal for everyone in the family, even in our household tonight we are all on our separate devices playing games, writing, talking on Skype, and watching the latest series on Net Flix.
So is it any wonder really that some people are experiencing loneliness, obviously the research outlines how increasing interaction is beneficial to health, it outlines to me how clear it is that health isn’t just about nutrition. When I see my clients they have often just come for a health screening or to understand what to do with their diet, but they leave with an understanding of how their lifestyle and environment pay a big part in their health.
Diverse range of relationships are important as is a diverse environment to interact in.
Why is this important well in a recent article in the BMJ ‘Serotonin and depression, the marketing of a myth’ stated that “the number of antidepressant prescriptions a year is slightly more than the number of people in the Western World.” It’s something that we all have to be aware of, because what is astonishing is not only the numbers now going onto antidepressant medication but also this small factor, that there is no correlation between serotonin re-uptake inhibiting potency and antidepressant efficacy. Yes you read that correctly, the evidence of these medications correcting depression in regards to serotonin is said to be no better than a placebo. What is more worrying is that there is really no test of measuring how well these medications work, and let me be clear that the side-effects are significant and can be worse than the depression itself in many cases, including suicidal tendencies and the small fact that they are addictive. So from loneliness created by a culture that we now live in and have created through a number of factors, some I’m sure I have omitted, to the fact that this medication is prescribed more time than there are people in the Western world, is something we need to be changing by making sure we are regularly interacting with others in positive ways it’s clear that it’s an important part of naturally good health.