Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Why are more of us feeling lonely?

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The Challenge Network is the national charity for bringing local people together.  We build trust between people of different ages, incomes and ethnicities.

That’s why loneliness is a very real worry for us. For if there’s one thing worse than being in one group and distrusting another, it’s being in no group at all and distrusting everyone.

That’s why this week we’re blogging about loneliness. And today we’re exploring why loneliness is on the rise.

Have you ever felt lonely? If you have you know that what you feel most acutely is the absence of people who care for you. No-one phoning on your birthday, no-one asking how your day was, no-one noticing if you don’t get out of bed.

If we want to do something about loneliness we need to understand why it is becoming harder to stay connected to people who care for us.

Here are three key reasons why this is happening – maybe you can think of others.

1. People who might care for you are busier.
The first problem is that many of us have less time to look out and care for others. Not only do we work longer hours than we used to, we also spend more time commuting. Possibly more significantly, many of us live in families where both parents work. 50 years ago much of the visiting and looking after and out for elderly relatives and neighbours might be done by a stay-at-home parent. As this habit reduces, we see many benefits but one cost is a loss of time for those we care for.

2. People who might care for you live further away.
We are a more mobile society. We change jobs, towns and homes more often. Unsurprisingly many of us now live far away from friends and family who might naturally look out for us.

3. New people who might care for you are harder to meet
If your friends and family are busier or live further away, what about meeting new friends instead? Unfortunately the increase in people’s busy-ness and mobility makes it harder to make new friends. With less time and less committed locals, the clubs, associations and societies that used to connect us with others are declining. Whether places of worship, local community associations, clubs, political parties or trade unions – the places where people might meet and connect are losing members and closing.

What is striking about these causes is they are significant changes in the way we live and cannot be simply wished away. Any approach to reconnecting our society, must go with the grain of these changes not deny them

More on what can be done on Friday, but tomorrow we explore why this loneliness epidemic matters.

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