If levels of loneliness rise does it mean that the quality of our relationships fall?
As human beings, we’re not built to live alone.
Levels of loneliness are rising around the world and the increasing trend towards individualistic societies in which people live alone, is playing a major part.
Sure, sometimes it’s fun to live alone; maybe you’re fed-up of living with your parents, sick of saying ‘hello’ to a new housemate every three months or maybe you’re focused on your career and want your own space.
There are certainly many perks to living alone. You can do the dishes tomorrow, you have full control over the TV, you can walk around in your birthday suit…the possibilities are endless! But living by yourself can come at a price.
Single-person households have become increasingly common in many countries across the world
Within the UK, almost 30% of people live alone. In the case of men aged between 45 and 64 years old, this figure rises to 72.1%; that’s almost three out of every four men!
Incidentally, depression rates have increased globally and the World Health Organization points to social isolation as a likely cause.
It has signalled that smaller countries with stronger family ties and economies that rely more on farming than industry have lower depression rates.
Generally, cultures that emphasize collectivism as opposed to individualism have lower rates of depression
Living in communities not only benefits our mental health, but our overall wellbeing and quality of life too. In his quest to discover the key to longevity, National Geographic fellow and multiple New York Times bestseller, Dan Buettner discovered five places in the world where people live the longest, and healthiest lives.
The 5 places of longest and heaviest life
· Okinawa, Japan;
· Sardinia, Italy;
· Nicoya, Costa Rica;
· Ikaria, Greece, and
· Loma Linda, California.
He termed these areas ‘blue zones’.
Whilst there is no one-size-fits-all lifestyle or diet that guarantees a healthier, longer life, Dan did find nine specific lifestyle factors that permeated the lifestyles of individuals living in these ‘blue zones’, which, combined provide the key to longevity.
Amongst these factors are ‘Tribe’, ‘Belonging’, and ‘Putting Loved ones first’; living in close communities appears to be a key contributor to enhancing both the quality and the duration of the lives of the elderly people living in blue zones.
Building strong and meaningful relationships is vital for our happiness, our wellbeing, and our general health. Here is an impressive example from a community of Japanese women, whose mental and physical health deserves recognition.
The Amas of Japan
In certain coastal towns of Japan, becoming an Ama is what all the young girls in the town aspire to become. It’s an admirable tradition that has been passed down from one generation to another. From the age of eighteen and into their eighties, these women free-dive in the Pacific Ocean, wearing nothing but a wet-suit, goggles, and passion.
They dive twice a day, once in the morning, and once in the afternoon. During a four-hour session, they dive around two-hundred times in search of abalone and turban snails to sell in the market.
Their endurance, their resilience and their attitude is unparalleled by most people in the western-world. They’re breathtakingly impressive!
On a documentary with Sue Perkins on Channel 4, the Amas explained their secret for a happy life: community. The sense of companionship and support, they said, was what kept them going; it’s the thing that makes them happy, keeps them healthy and strong. They value the little things in life; gossiping with their friends, sharing a meal together, and simply being accompanied.
Build and Cherish Your Relationships
For thousands of years, humans have travelled in tribes and built communities that could only thrive with the support of the entire group. The human species has come to dominate above all others thanks to our ability to coordinate large groups, form governments, nations, hierarchies that enabled us to coexist in huge ‘tribes’.
People helped raised each other, provide protection, companionship, emotional support, entertainment; because we realized — we’re stronger together.
However, in more recent years, we’ve begun to prioritise individual success in favour of collective survival. It is sometimes easy to perceive individuals who are ‘successful’ as those who live in an amazing apartment, work in a shiny corner office with views over the city, and glow an aura so beautiful that one can look but not touch.
We might feel a sense of pressure to prove ourselves – to be successful, to be different, and to make our own mark on the world. But we’re all inherently unique – by definition; it’s in our DNA. We don’t need to distance ourselves from others to prove we’re individuals, or to prove that we’re successful.
Leone Centre Counselling – Relationship is Everything
Whilst the benefits of companionship might seem obvious, taking the time to actively and consciously nourish our relationships is something that many of us fail to make a priority.
But perhaps most importantly, we know that in order to bring the best version of yourself into any relationship, you also need to nurture the relationship that you have with yourself.
That’s why we also offer a range of services to help you do just that. Leone Centre therapists can work with you through different challenges from stress management to addiction therapy, managing your anxiety, bereavement, supporting you in your relationships, self-esteem and become the best version of ‘you’.
Our World in Data
World Health Organization
The 9 Lifestyle factors (Bluezones Website)
Sue Perkins: Travels in Japan