Feeling lonely can affect anyone, young or old. FILE PHOTO
US author Henry Rollins once wrote: “Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better.” Indeed, in the eyes of artists, loneliness never seems to go out of style. There are paintings that portray loneliness, songs that are inspired by loneliness, and many works of literature that center around this theme.
In the eyes of UK economist Rachel Reeves, however, loneliness is far from romantic. Instead, it’s a “giant evil” that’s become a serious problem in the country.
So just how serious is it? On Jan 17, UK Prime Minister Theresa May appointed politician Tracey Crouch as the country’s very first “Minister for Loneliness”. Her job is to tackle the loneliness that the country’s been feeling – a problem which, according to UK government research, is affecting more than 9 million people in the country, and is more harmful to one’s physical and mental health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
And the problem hasn’t just appeared recently. Back in 2014, the UK was given the title of the “loneliness capital of Europe” by The Telegraph. A survey carried out by the newspaper found that British people were less likely to get to know their neighbors or build strong relationships with people than those from other European countries.
“There is something British about wanting to deal with problems yourself,” Christian Guy, director of the Centre for Social Justice think-tank, told The Telegraph.
But this doesn’t mean that the problem only affects Britons. In fact, we’re all suffering from loneliness now more than ever, in spite of most of the world now having access to the internet, which has enabled us to be more connected than ever.
What we need, according to Kim Leadbetter, sister of the late UK politician Jo Cox, is to have “proper human connections”.
“Our lives nowadays are so busy. We spend the vast majority of our time on our phones, on our laptops. We need to press pause on that and actually sit down and speak to human beings,” Leadbetter said at an event last year.
But the first steps toward fighting this problem are to accept its existence and not be ashamed or intimidated by it. After all, without loneliness, many beautiful paintings, songs, and literary works wouldn’t even exist. And “evil” or not, being lonely is simply part of the experience of being human.