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The unnoticed pandemic of loneliness


Published in

El Diario Montañés and Diario de Navarra

Gerardo Castillo

Professor School of Education and Psychology

Unwanted loneliness is a side effect of the covid19 pandemic. It mainly affects older people who were already living alone or who felt lonely despite being surrounded by people. Covid-19 has exacerbated the problem of that subject of loneliness. The need to maintain a physical distance from other people to avoid contagion has resulted in a B decrease in social relationships, which, in turn, predisposes to emotional distress: fear, stress, anguish, vulnerability and uncertainty.

Many psychologists and physicians claim that the pandemic of loneliness has a heavy economic cost to society, because of the tendency of lonely people to become sicker. In the United Kingdom, loneliness has been considered a state issue. It happened in 2018, when the Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced the appointment of Tracey Crouch as Minister for Loneliness, with the goal to prevent and combat cases of unwanted loneliness.

In Japan, the year 2020 saw more deaths from suicide than from coronavirus, due to the loneliness pandemic. purpose With the aim of curbing this status, and as the United Kingdom did two years ago, the Japanese chief executive has created a Ministry of Loneliness to coordinate the fight against social isolation.

The problem is not a minor one in our country. In the report Spain 2020 prepared by the University of Comillas, it is said that the coronavirus crisis has caused 11% of the people consulted in their own survey to confess to feeling severe loneliness, compared to the 5.2% who considered suffering from loneliness before the pandemic.

Being alone is not the same as being lonely. The latter denotes a problem staff that usually requires psychological financial aid . On the other hand, chosen solitude responds to a vital and existential need of all human beings. The person needs solitude to develop and grow. The solitude sought makes it possible to reflect, contemplate and know oneself better. In addition, it makes us more empathetic people, since the connection with our own feelings is usually extrapolated to others.

For Wilson López, a psychologist at the Universidad Javeriana, the pandemic of loneliness is, in some cases, the effect of a culture that prioritizes individualism. To this must be added, in my opinion, the trend towards isolationism in the digital world, which affects a whole generation of digital natives.

A study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh found that increased use of social networking sites is associated with an increased sense of loneliness. The authors of the study confessed that it is not always possible to determine exactly whether the use of social networks makes young people more isolated or whether it is loneliness that pushes them to use them more frequently.

According to the ONCE Foundation and AXA study, friends and family are the main support in cases of loneliness. Likewise, "there is a broad consensus that public institutions should address loneliness".

A good way to combat unwanted loneliness is to work with others on volunteer activities activities. In my opinion, these subject activities would be more effective if they were framed within a ministry of Loneliness. Experts also attribute healing properties to pets, as they serve as companions to their owners. This explains why their sale is skyrocketing lately.

Cristina Páez, director of Mental Health in Catalonia, associates the problem and the possible solution to human values: "We would have to analyze the loneliness felt by children, young people, mothers, grandparents, businessmen, the dying or doctors due to the fact that we live in a society organized to produce, have, accumulate and achieve. And in which values such as listening, friendship, words, praise, recognition, looks, tenderness, passion or trust are almost absent". We can all find moments of positive solitude and share them with some friends who only know the chronic loneliness of isolation. Chosen solitude makes us more aware of our condition as free beings. This is what psychologist Mireia Darder says: "When I am alone I feel completely free. I find myself again and that is pleasant and restorative. In a society that forces you to be enormously aware of the outside, the spaces of solitude represent the only possibility of getting in touch with oneself again. It is a necessary movement of contraction to regain balance.