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00:00 Even if you've been feeling lonely lately, you may have never stopped to think about the true cause of this feeling, or a practical way to overcome it. Well, the psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Robert Waldinger has some thoughts on this topic that might change your perspective and give you a realistic strategy for minimizing feelings of loneliness in your daily life. So let's hear what he has to say.

00:25 I can deliberately isolate myself and feel great about that. But only you can tell if you're lonely. And the fact is you can be lonely in a crowd, you can be lonely in a marriage. You can also be very content and not lonely, alone on a mountain top. Starting in the 1950s and going all the way through to today, we know that people have been less and less invested in other people.

00:54 In some studies, as many as 60% of people will say that they feel lonely much of the time. And the lowest estimates are 30 to 40% of people say they feel lonely. Young adults, age 16 to 24, are the loneliest age group. And then again, among older adults, there is an increase in loneliness, particularly as people lose friends, lose partners.

01:22 but loneliness is pervasive across the world, across all age groups, all income groups, all demographics.

01:33 All right, so again, that's Robert Waldinger, the psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, talking about the fact that modern loneliness is something that's very pervasive. It's found across all socioeconomic classes, and he's really highlighting the difference between being alone and being lonely, right? Like you could go hiking by yourself, reach the top of a mountain and feel completely content, feel like nothing or no one is missing. You just feel fine by yourself.

02:02 but you can also be surrounded by people at a bar or a party or in school or even at home and feel empty or completely alone, even though there are people in your presence. And like I just said, this has been true for people of all socioeconomic classes, according to Robert, since the 1950s. And so he's gonna go into more detail about that right now. Let's check it out.

02:28 There are so many factors that are responsible for this loneliness epidemic. They did not just begin with the digital revolution. Loneliness was on the rise, as we know at least from the 1950s. In part because of social dislocation, we become a much more mobile society where the networks of family and friends get disrupted as people move for jobs and other kinds of opportunities like education.

02:58 All of that is good on the one hand, but that it tears us away from the fabric of belonging that many of us are born into and spend much of our lives creating. Then there is the world of screens. So when television came into the American home, there was a decline in investing in our communities. People went out less, they joined clubs less often. They went to houses of worship.

03:26 less often, they invited people over less often. All of that seems to contribute to our increasing disconnection and our increasing levels of loneliness. That was made worse as the digital revolution gave us more and more screens to look at and software that was designed specifically to grab our attention, hold our attention and therefore keep it away from the people we care about.

03:58 All right, so in part two of this clip, Robert is talking about the fact that contrary to popular belief, the loneliness epidemic, if we can call it that, really started back in the 50s, back when, at least in the US, a lot of people started to move specifically for work. That started to happen much more frequently. For example, in my family, we moved around a lot when I was a kid because my dad was always going after better, higher paying jobs, and they just happened to be in different locations.

04:27 And that was the case for a lot of people, whether they came from a military family or their parents were moving for some other type of profession or whatever it may be, people started moving for work a lot more frequently, which took them away from their community, their neighborhood, other family members that live in the same city, their school friends, colleagues at work, things of that nature. So if you're constantly moving from place to place, you're basically uprooting yourself and your life and having to start over.

04:56 in a new place, which can be very challenging. And then things like the television came along, which caused people to just leave the house a lot less frequently. Instead of going out to do things, you sit at home and you look at the TV. And then smartphones came along and it was just like the TV on steroids, where now we don't all have to watch the same thing on one TV. We all have these miniature TVs in our pockets.

05:21 that will play podcasts and TikTok videos and YouTube videos and Instagram and et cetera. And so the technology that we know and love today only made things worse. It's not the root cause of everyone feeling so lonely. According to Robert, it started much before that. So let's hear what else he has to say.

05:43 We know that people with strong social bonds are much less likely to die in any given year than people without strong social bonds. There's good work by Julianne Holt Lundstad, who is a researcher who studies loneliness. And what she finds is that loneliness is as dangerous to our health as smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day. We think that stress

06:11 is one of the main causes of physical health breakdown that comes from loneliness. But there are probably other causes as well. And in addition, the research shows that people who are lonely in late life have more rapid brain decline. So we know that this same process of increased stress or decreased stress affects how our brains age.

06:40 And many other studies show that the single choice we can make that's most likely to keep us on a good path of wellbeing is to invest in our relationships with other people. It's not just our closest relationships that make us feel connected. It's all kinds of relationships. It's the person who delivers the mail. It's the cashier who checks us out at the grocery store. It's all these casual encounters.

07:09 All of these ways of making it a little bit more personal do a lot to make other people feel like they belong and they make us feel more like we belong.

07:21 All right, so in this part of the clip, Robert is talking about the effect that this loneliness epidemic is having on so many people. They found, I say they, let's say that, apparently some scientists found that people who experience large amounts of loneliness, people who spend tons of time alone, their brains tend to, I don't wanna use the word deteriorate. What was the word that he used? Rapid brain decline or something like that?