All the Lonely People
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
This original OZY series delves into the alarming increase in chronic loneliness.
By Nancy King
We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone — at least according to Orson Welles. But are we lonelier than ever before? If so, what can be done about it? In this original series, OZY takes a look at what some experts are calling a looming epidemic that will tax our health care system and threaten our social fabric. The problem is real and affects surprising segments of society, but there’s also reason to be optimistic — more so than the experts and certainly more than Orson Welles.
China is emerging as the new capital of Asia’s loneliness economy, a position long held by Japan, and many businesses are lining up to cash in. From karaoke brands catering to solo singers to “Singles Day” (the equivalent of Black Friday in the U.S.), with companies targeting singleton shoppers, there’s big money to be made off China’s loneliest residents — and experts predict the lucrative sector will continue to grow.
As surgeon general under former President Barack Obama, Vivek Murthy traveled throughout the United States, where he saw enormous emotional pain driving opioid addiction, chronic illness and violence. Looking below the surface, Murthy identified loneliness as an issue of particular concern. The first steps, he says, are to remove the stigma surrounding loneliness and to recognize that social connection, like food and water, is a basic human need. Then the real work can begin of building those vital connections, the foundation on which we can tackle bigger social problems like the political divide and climate change.
When that sucky lonely feeling hits, what are you going to do? Distract yourself by going to the movies or shopping online, or diving deeper and wallowing in the misery? It’s up to you — cheer up or pity party — but whichever you choose, here’s a curated list of songs guaranteed to make it all better, or much worse. We’ve all been there. Enjoy the agony.
The experience of loneliness is universal — and musicians, writers and artists the world over have tried to capture it in their work. Using just four characters, the Chinese have a particularly poetic way to express loneliness. Try it the next time you feel lonely — you may not feel better, but you will feel like a poet.
It seems meditation is good for just about everything, from high blood pressure to a disordered mind. But why would you meditate, a distinctly solitary pursuit, when you’re feeling all alone? It’s about focus, acceptance and building self-confidence. Check it out; after all, what’ve you got to lose except the blues?
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- Nancy King, OZY Author Contact Nancy King