I was interviewed recently by Sharon Kirkey on the subject on loneliness. I’ve had some amazing conversations with Sharon before about face transplants so it was a lovely coincidence to discover she was writing a piece about loneliness in Canada.
Like many places in the Western world, Canada is experiencing high levels of loneliness, especially in women in their 30s. One of the problems in assessing loneliness, however, is that there is little analysis of the ways we collect data and the categories used. How many women in their 30s complaining of loneliness are new mums for instance, for whom loneliness is an inevitable part of life sometimes - especially those “pinch points” where we transition from one way of being to another.
Other pinch points include adolescence, university life, marriage, parenthood, divorce, redundancy, retirement, widowhood - any of the moments that require us to reevaluate who we are and our place in the world.
We need a more nuanced approach to the “loneliness epidemic”. That includes who loneliness affects as well as the different emotions involved and the role played by time, gender, class, health and ability.
Sometimes loneliness is chronic and damaging, other times it is transitory and manageable (even pleasurable) and that is why we need a far more sophisticated approach to loneliness than we have at present. And we also need to consider the political function of loneliness: not only how political choices (like withdrawing benefits and closing libraries) can increase loneliness, but also how loneliness can serve an important political function. It can even give rise to populism and totalitarian governments.
Check out the article, which includes other key researchers in modern loneliness, including Susan Matt and Luke Fernandez. And consider: is the loneliness pill really a solution? I will discuss this more fully in my next post, which includes a live interview I gave for Canadian news organisation CTV.