IS LONELINESS LIFE THREATENING?

May 31, 2018 at 5:00 am

A new study asserts that loneliness could be hazardous to your health, and warns that if left untreated, it can lead to heart disease, cancer and even death. We have the details.

Aired on May 30, 2018.

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>> IT'S THE BIG APPLE.
THE CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS.
AND EVEN THE CAPITOL OF THE
WORLD.
NEW YORK CITY.
OVER 8 MILLION STRONG.
BUT AMONGST OUR NEIGHBORS THE
PEOPLE WE WORK WITH WALK THE
STREETS WITH AND COMMUTE WITH
THERE WAS A GROWING EPIDEMIC OF
LONELINESS.
ACCORDING TO A RECENT STUDY BY A
CIGNA INSURANCE NEARLY HALF OF
ALL AMERICANS FEEL ALONE AND THE
IMPACT OF THEIR LONELINESS IS
FAR GREATER THAN PREVIOUSLY
THOUGHT.
SO JOINING ME NOW WITH INSIGHT
IS NYU SOCIOLOGIST ERIC REYNEN
BURGER, THE AUTHOR OF GOING
SOLO.
ERIC WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.
>> THANK YOU IT'S NICE TO BE
HERE.
>> SO, FIRST, TO BEGIN WITH,
THIS IS NEW YORK CITY.
HOW IS IT IN A CITY OF 8 MILLION
CAN PEOPLE FEEL LONELY?
>> WELL, ONE OF THE THINGS ABOUT
LIVING IN A BIG CITY IS THAT
EVEN IF YOU HAVE A LOT OF
FRIENDS YOU ARE CONSTANTLY
SURROUNDED BY STRANGERS.
SO IF YOU LIVE IN A SMALL TOWN
YOU MIGHT KNOW FEWER PEOPLE BUT
YOU KNOW JUST ABOUT ALL THE
PEOPLE YOU WALK BY IN THE
STREETS.
WHEN YOU'RE ON THE SUBWAY OR
WALKING DOWN A BIG AVENUE, YOU
CAN FEEL PROFOUNDLY ALONE AND SO
MODERN CITIES HAVE ALWAYS GIVEN
PEOPLE THAT FEELING.
>> BUT HOW MUCH OF THIS IS NEW
YORKERS OWN MAKING.
>> IT'S A GREAT QUESTION.
AND LET ME BE CLEAR THAT THERE
IS A REAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
LIVING ALONE OR BEING ALONE AND
FEELING LONELY.
SO RIGHT NOW AN EXTRAORDINARY
NUMBER OF PEOPLE HAVE THEIR OWN
APARTMENTS.
AND YOU'RE RIGHT.
THEY GET THEIR OWN APARTMENTS
BECAUSE THEY CAN AFFORD IT.
THEY GO TO THE RESTAURANT BY
THEMSELVES BECAUSE THEY FEEL
COMFORTABLE DOING THAT.
AND IT'S OUR AFFLUENCE AND
SUCCESS THAT ALLOWS PEOPLE TO
LIVE WITHOUT THE TRADITIONAL
SOURCES OF SOCIAL SUPPORTS.
BUT AT THE SAME TIME AT SOME
POINT YOU CAN START TO FEEL
LONELY IF YOU FAIL TO MAKE THE
CONNECTIONS THAT ALL OF US NEED
TO BE HAPPY IN LIFE.
SO NO MATTER HOW WEALTHY YOU ARE
IF YOU ISOLATE YOURSELF YOU'LL
FEEL THE PENNSYLVANIA PAIN.
>> SEWS DOES SOCIAL MEDIA PLAY A
ROLE?
SOME HAVE SAID WE SPEND SO MUCH
TIME LOOKING AT OUR PHONES AND
NOT UP AT PEOPLE WE'VE LOST THE
ABILITY TO MAKE A CONNECTION.
>> ALL OF US HAD THE EXPERIENCE
WHERE YOU'RE WITH A PERSON AND
THEY SEEM CONSTANTLY DISTRACTED.
AND SOCIAL LIFE CAN BE
UNSATISFACTORYING PROCESS THE
PEOPLE YOU'RE WITH IS ALWAYS
LOOKING FOR SOME OTHER
STIMULATION THAT MAKES ALL OF US
FEEL WE'RE FOR THE GETTING WHAT
WE NEED.
THAT SAID, THE BEST RESEARCH WE
HAVE RIGHT NOW TELLS US THAT THE
HEAVY QUEST USERS OF SOCIAL
MEDIA WILL ALSO THE HEAVIEST
IRIS OF FACE-TO-FACE
INTERACTIONS.
THEY'RE PEOPLE WITH A HEALTHY
APPETITE FOR SOCIAL LIFE.
AND THIS STUDY THAT WE'RE
TALKING ABOUT TODAY SURPRISED
MANY PEOPLE.
BECAUSE IT SHOWED THAT THE MOST
ACTIVE USERS OF SOCIAL MEDIA
WERE NOT MORE LONELY THAN PEOPLE
WHO ARE JUST USING IT A LITTLE
BIT.
THAT DOESN'T REALLY SEEM TO BE
THE DRIVER OF THIS.
>> SO THIS IS ONE THING WE CAN'T
BLAME AND FACEBOOK.
>> JUST ONE.
ONE THING.
>> ALL RIGHT.
SO BREAK DOWN FOR ME, IF YOU
WILL, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE
PHYSICAL HEALTH DETRIMENTS THAT
COME FROM BEING LONELY, FROM
FEELING ALONE AND BEING LONELY.
>> WELL WE NOW KNOW THAT FEELING
LONELY IS NOT JUST A MINOR
ANNOYANCE IF IT GETS CARRIED
AWAY.
IF YOU FEEL JUST LIKE A LITTLE
BIT OF LONELINESS.
THAT'S ACTUALLY YOUR BODY GIVING
YOU A CUE YOU NEED TO GO OUT IN
THE WORLD AND MAKE STRONGER
CONNECTIONS.
YOU NEED TO HAVE BETTER SOCIAL
SUPPORT.
AND SO YOU CAN HAVE A HEALTHY
DOES OF DON'TLINESS BUT IT CAN
BE DANGEROUS WE IT BECOMES
SEVERE AND CONSTANT.
BECAUSE LONELINESS CAN LEAD TO
WITHDRAWAL, SOCIAL WITHDRAWAL
AND ALSO TO DEPRESSION.
THAT DEPRESSION CAN LEAD YOU TO
BE MORE ISOLATED.
IT CAN ELEVATE YOUR STRESS.
AND THAT CAN LEAD TO DIABETES.
INCREASE THE INCIDENCE OF
CANCER.
MAKE YOU ARE MORE LIKELY TO
COMMIT SUICIDE.
AND SO MEDICAL DOCTORS ARE
INCREASINGLY CONVINCED THAT
LONELINESS IS IN AND OF ITSELF A
HEALTH PROBLEM THAT WE SHOULD
ALL TAKE MORE SERIOUSLY.
>> BUT ON THE FLIP SIDE, THOUGH,
BECAUSE IN YOUR BOOK GOING SOLO
YOU TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE
BENEFITS OF DOING THINGS SOLO.
>> THAT'S RIGHT.
AND HERE AGAIN WE HAVE TO MAKE A
DISTINCTION BETWEEN SOL ATTITUDE
WHICH CAN BE VERY PRODUCTIVE AND
HEALTHY AND PROFOUND LONELINESS
WHICH CAN BE DESTRUCTIVE.
I THINK WE LIVE AT A TIME NOW
WHERE WE'RE ALL SO
HYPERCONNECTED, ON OUR PHONES
ALL THE TIME, CONSTANTLY
COMMUNICATING WITH PEOPLE,
ENTERTAINING OURSELVES, AND WE
HAVE LOST A LITTLE BIT OF OUR
ABILITY TO CHECK OUT.
AND THINK ABOUT HOW WE'RE LIVING
OUR LIVES, ABOUT OUR
RELATIONSHIPS, ABOUT WHAT WE
WANT AND WHAT WE NEED TO BE
HAPPIER.
AND IN FACT IT'S HAVING THAT SAL
ATTITUDE AND MAKING USE OF IT
THAT ALLOWS US TO LIVE MORE
RICHLY AND TO DISCOVER WHAT IT
IS THAT WE REALLY WANT.
>> ALL RIGHT.
WELL, IF THERE IS ANYTHING THAT
YOU WOULD WANT PEOPLE TO TAKE
AWAY FROM, ESPECIALLY SOMEONE
WHO MIGHT BE SORT OF ON THAT
CUSP WHERE YOU ARE STRUGGLING
WITH THE FEELINGS, ANXIETY
FEELINGS OF LONELINESS YET AT
THE SAME TIME YOU DO ENJOY THE
FACT THAT YOU FINALLY DON'T HAVE
ROOMMATES.
WHAT WOULD YOU WANT TO BE THE
TAKE AWAY OF THE EPIDEMIC OF
LOEPLYNESS FOR I THINK MOST OF
NEWS THAT AREA.
>> WELL, FIRST OF ALL, I WOULD
SAY I ACTUALLY DON'T THINK THERE
IS AN EPIDEMIC OF LOEPLYNESS.
I THINK WE'RE JUST ABOUT AS
LEPLY AS WE'VE ALWAYS BEEN IN
MODERN CITIES.
I'M A LITTLE CAUTIOUS ABOUT EACH
NEW REPORT BECAUSE THEY TEND TO
SHOW RESULTS ALL OVER THE MAP.
I THINK WE'RE NOT NOT
NECESSARILY LONELIER THAN WE'VE
EVER BEEN.
BUT WHAT WE FEEL LENLY IT'S
SERIOUS AND IMPORTANT.
AND YOU SHOULD KNOW IF YOU FEEL
LONELY THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
THIS IS A SITUATION THAT'S
SHARED BY MANY PEOPLE AND THERE
IS SUPPORT THERE.
>> ERIC, LISTEN, THANK YOU SO
MUCH FOR JOINING US ON THE
PROGRAM.
AND GIVING US SOME INSIGHT INTO
HOW TO HANDLE SOME OF THESE
ISSUES THAT WE ALL WRESTLE WITH
IN A CITY LIKE NEW YORK.
>> THANKS, IT'S BEEN MY
PLEASURE.
>> THANK YOU.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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