- 3rd September, 2018
Coworking as a cure for loneliness if you are a freelancer, entrepreneur or solo worker, has been talked about many times. But are we as a nation heading for a loneliness epidemic?
Christiano Ronaldo has 122.1 million, Leo Messi has 90.4 million, Neymar has 90 million and I have 101… I am talking about friends on Facebook here!
Do you think Neymar is worried that Ronaldo has lots more cyber-mates than he does, or do you think he takes comfort in the fact that David Beckham only has 53 million?Facebook followers are not real friends, of course. They don’t call in for a cuppa and a custard cream. If they did, Cristiano would have to cater for a heck of a lot of people each day and that is a lot of semi-skimmed!
As a Nation we have never been so connected and yet this connection is causing a huge amount of loneliness. Many of us are living on your own, often working on our own and maybe don’t have family close by. Just looking at a snapshot of everyone else’s life could lead you to believe everyone apart from you is out there in large groups socialising and having a great time. How to make you feel even more lonely and isolated?
More than a quarter of all households in the UK are single occupancy. That is around 7.7 million people. This is predicted to increase by another two million over the next decade or so and not all because of an aging population.
Almost 2.5m people aged between 45 and 64 now live alone in the UK, almost a million more than two decades ago, the fastest rising age group.
We must be careful when we are banging on about living alone that we don’t forget that for some people this is not a problem. For many older people who have been widowed they have prepared themselves to live alone and although they would have loved their partner to still be with them, they would prefer to live alone than with anyone else. There is the possibility of positive loneliness. Some people are happy in their own company and solitude and privacy is for them. If this is you then great work and keep it going, don’t let anyone tell you, you should be unhappy.
However most of us would agree with Anne Hathaway when she said;
“Loneliness is my least favourite thing about life. The thing that I’m most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me”
David Halpern is the Chief Executive of the Governments Behavioural Insights Team and Board Director. He quotes research carried out in America that found “If you have got someone who loves you, someone you can talk to if you have got a problem, that is a more powerful predictor of whether you will be alive in 10 years’ time, more than almost any other factor, certainly more than smoking.”
This research looked at the lives of almost 309,000 people for an average of seven-and-a-half years – a justifiable sample.
What this research found was that those with stronger social relationships had a 50% increased likelihood of survival than those who lived more solitary lives. This is some research.
The effect was consistent across several factors – age, gender, health status, follow-up period, and cause of death.
This research proves that we are social creatures and those with a better quality of social contact will most certainly be healthier, happier and live longer.
An interesting aspect of this research was, looking at many decades ago when there was a high mortality rate of babies and children in social care. Even when looking at an illness related death the high percentage of deaths could be attributed to a lack of human contact. This showed the researchers that in loneliness is not a learned behaviour it is nature. By changing the contact infants had with other people mortality rates dropped.
So, loneliness is bad for our health. Seriously bad and this decade old research proves that.
The more recent research concludes that, if the impact of isolation is potentially so great on our health, we should do more to prevent it.
We know it is a problem but what can we do about this. Most of us know first hand or know of someone who feels isolated and lonely. It is often scary and physically hard for people to put themselves in a position of being socially active. If only doctors could prescribe a dose of companionship two times a day or two tablets of friendship to be taken when needed.
What many lonely people need is a sense of community and feeling needed. So often now we live in areas that are very transient and we don’t know our neighbours. Gone or the days when I could name every person living in the twenty or so houses surrounding our own, but this genuinely is the childhood I grew up in.
When we hear on the news that someone was found dead in their flat after a year it dismays us for a while and we all think “now when did I last see the lady from Number 3”. Preventing this is about much more, it is about being involved. I am not sure that research or the government can make us be more social. What we do need to do is increase awareness off the benefits of being sociable, having contact and being involved. We can give people options and views that could help them to make the first step to becoming more engaged with society.
The government has backed and celebrated the work of the Jo Cox’s Loneliness Commission. Set up by the family of the murdered MP. More than nine million of us say that we always, or often, feel lonely. Theresa May has promised that ministers “will do all that we can to see that, in memory of Jo Cox, we bring an end to the acceptance of loneliness in our society”.
We have written before about the work of Prof Daniel Kahneman and he says;
“It turns out something like 15% of the overall time that people spend is bad time, unpleasant time. Now that gives you something to get your teeth into. If you manage to reduce that number from 15% to 14%, you would be doing a great service to humankind!”
What proportion of that 15% is unpleasant because people are on their own when they yearn for company?
Just imagine if the world could offer those people the hand of friendship. A smile and a word. Company when they want it and privacy when they don’t. Now that would be a great service to humankind”
There is a solution and that solution is kindness and extending that hand to anyone who feels they would like to change their surroundings, even if it is just some of the time”.
Workplace is offering that hand and if to start off with it is just a cup off tea and chat to see what coworking is about then come and see us. Come and work with us for a day free of charge to see the opportunities, then please follow this link and try us out. Come and see what a kind friendly bunch we are!