Today, there was yet another story on the dire effects of loneliness. The headline screamed, “Loneliness twice as unhealthy as obesity for older people, study finds.” And of course these findings point to a pending “crisis.” The researchers found that feelings of isolation can have a “devastating” effect on older people.
Let’s delve a little deeper into these findings. First, we see that the study was conducted on 2,000 people aged 50 and over. Compared with the average person in the study, those who reported being lonely had a 14% greater risk of dying. A 14% greater risk. And right after this, we are informed that poverty increases the risk of an early death by 19%. So why is the headline about loneliness when in fact poverty is the greater risk for an early death? How many of the lonely people in the study were also living in poverty?
The article contained 576 words. Thirteen words were given to presenting the other side of the story, “The researchers found that some people were happy living a life of solitude.” The next sentence was . . . “being lonely not only made life miserable for older people, but also made them more vulnerable to illness and disease.” Not one comment was put forth on the fact that some of the older people in the study were happy living a life of solitude.
I am so tired of this negative propaganda about loneliness. The facts are always distorted, the information is always biased, and the writers are always trying to drum up an artificial crisis.
Why doesn’t anybody write about how older people are marginalized by society, how they are ridiculed and shamed on television shows, how they are treated with disrespect by younger people and pushed out of jobs? To ignore the social context that older people live in – and simply call the pain they experience, loneliness (which is generally viewed as a personal failing or a personal problem), is a very obvious attempt to either hide or ignore the real issues.