From email to Twitter to Facebook to Instagram, our world is more connected than ever. We can easily contact new acquaintances, stay in touch with old friends, and watch the lives of people we’ve never met simply by logging in to a smartphone app.
Yet, despite our ability to easily connect with others, loneliness is more prevalent than ever. In fact, recent research shows we may be facing a loneliness epidemic, especially in younger generations.
What is Loneliness?
Loneliness is a profound sense of disconnection. As the reported rate of loneliness in America skyrockets, experts have begun to learn more about this complex national crisis, giving us insight into its cause and effects.
What we have found is that loneliness is a more pervasive and dangerous condition that we could have imagined.
While many people view loneliness as an emotional problem, research shows that it is just as much a threat to physical health.
In reality, this deep sadness born out of social isolation has the ability to make us sick. According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, isolation can lead to conditions such as obesity, heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
As these risks are associated with older generations, it raises concerns for the future of Gen Z, the generation most gripped by the loneliness epidemic.
Generation Z and Loneliness
There are many theories why those born between 1995 and 2009 report higher rates of loneliness. The most common of these is social media. With the rise of online social platforms came concerns from experts regarding technology and human connection.
Despite social media’s ability to provide easy access to one other, online interaction can not replace the sense of purpose and belonging that comes with face-to-face interaction with friends and family members.
As the feelings of social isolation increased in younger, social media-savvy generations, it seemed the fears that social media would result in mass loneliness were confirmed. However, there is evidence to suggest that social media is actually not to blame for these feelings of isolation.
While social media may cause feelings of jealousy or loneliness in some, many report feeling more connected by using social media.
So while it was once quite easy to blame Facebook for our profound sense of disconnection, the problem at hand is much more complicated than we originally believed, and unfortunately much deeper.
Causes of Loneliness
While it is true that humans are becoming increasingly more absorbed in their devices than the people surrounding them, there are other factors that are likely at fault in the loneliness epidemic.
As we have begun spending more time engrossed in our phones and computers, we are also simultaneously experiencing less interaction with neighbors, fewer long-term friendships, a lack of sleep, smaller family sizes, etc.
Additionally, as experts conduct research on the causes of loneliness, not only have they found that social media may not increase feelings of loneliness, the contributing factors of social isolation depend on the individual.
There is often no single issue that causes loneliness, but rather a series of disconnections that add up over time.
Loneliness and Addiction
Along with the profound feeling of isolation that accompanies loneliness come many other health risks, including addiction.
It is all too common for those experiencing loneliness to turn to substances to alleviate their sense of disconnection. Unfortunately, addiction only leads to increased isolation, perpetuating the cycle.
There are many symptoms associated with loneliness that can contribute to addiction:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feelings of disconnection
- Feelings of sadness
- Feelings of abandonment
- Feelings of isolation
The Alo Approach
Because of loneliness’ known contribution to substance use disorders, we have found connection to be the greatest preventative for addiction and a necessary component of recovery.
The disconnection we are facing today is greater than a single contributing factor and highly dependent on the individual.
This is why we assess each of our clients as individuals and create a treatment plan specialized to their unique experiences and needs.
For more information regarding connection and addiction, read about the Compassionate Care Model of Addiction.
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