The topic of the lead story on today’s CBS Sunday Morning, “Going It Alone”, is one of my favorite life-long lines of research: loneliness. There we meet a man who, at age 27, chose to not speak to a single human being for 17 years! He eventually concluded, at age 72, that if you have four really good friends, who understand and appreciate your authentic self, you are truly lucky.
According to a recent Cigna study, loneliness is at epidemic levels in our country.
Their 2018 survey of more than 20,000 U.S. adults revealed some alarming findings:
- Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone (46 percent) or left out (47 percent).
- One in four Americans (27 percent) rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them.
- Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful (43 percent) and that they are isolated from others (43 percent).
- One in five people report they rarely or never feel close to people (20 percent) or feel like there are people they can talk to (18 percent).
- Americans who live with others are less likely to be lonely (average loneliness score of 43.5) compared to those who live alone (46.4). However, this does not apply to single parents/guardians (average loneliness score of 48.2) – even though they live with children, they are more likely to be lonely.
- Only around half of Americans (53 percent) have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, on a daily basis.
- Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations.
How much do YOU need quality connections?
This all brings back my own gradual transition in my 30s and 40s from a true loner, who didn’t trust anyone completely, to a happily married woman in my 60s. After a traumatic betrayal in my 20s I also gave up on people. I did allow a few acquaintances in after counseling in my early 30s, but trust was not my best quality.
My first marriage was a lonely tangle of struggle, criticism and disempowerment. I gradually realized that I would probably be spending the rest of my life alone unless something changed. What changed was a divorce in 2001 and then job/career loss in 2004. Living on severance with only two good friends I saw maybe once a month plus my dogs, I faced loneliness most of the time, providing ample opportunity to consider my options for my future.
At age 49 I decided loneliness was my worst problem and I did not want to live the rest of my life if it was going to be this lonely indefinitely.
9 thoughts on “Do you have four really good friends?”
Very interesting read. I moved from Seattle after an involuntary early retirement in 1999 to a small rural town in SE Washington where my son and his growing family were and are. I made new friends I became close with at the new job I found here. Only one is left, she’s 20 years younger than I and still working but the rest have either moved away or sadly, died. Post-retirement my efforts sound much like yours, and assortment of long time volunteering and other groups but no deep connections. I also find smaller communities to be somewhat insular, nice people but sticking to their family and childhood friends. Fortunately both my sons now live here and my sweet daughter-in-law has a family here who include me in their lives. My other close contacts are two faraway friends that I talk to by phone every week or more. Fortunately I’ve always been good at enjoying my own company but I still will get out in the community.
Yes Celia, you are right when you say “no deep connections.” Perhaps you are also right about smaller communities being insular, “nice people but sticking to their family and childhood friends.” I truly don’t know, I just know I haven’t had this problem before in my 63 years on this planet!
My BFF died so that drops my count. Friends for decades are really to replace. My Dad died at 86. Before he died he was playing golf with the ‘B’ Team. When asked he said all his ‘A’ team friends were dead so these guys are friends but not like his originals. With the loss of my good friend I totally understand.
What a wonderful transition to be able to make.
As a now-adult Navy brat, I have a tendency to really just let people come and go from my life. That’s neither good nor bad, it’s just how I am, but over my years living in NYC I’ve collected a small set of people who’ve kept being around even after moving on from the job or class or boating club where I met them. It’s sort of mysterious to me how or why that happens but I’m happy that it has as much as it did!
Yes Bonnie! I’m so happy I was able to change and then meet someone worthy of my loyalty and love. It really is a mystery why some friendships last forever and most come and go….
Our stories have much in common. I tried to be cynical, but still felt lonely (thank God for dogs) until my high school sweetheart found me after 39 years. I had to learn to trust the timing. The love of my life found me when I was in my mid 50s. I’ve always wanted to see Colorado. I love your story and goals and wish you the best.
Thanks for coming by JoAnna. What a great LOVE story! Your blog is beautiful. Where do you live now?
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We normally live in Wilmington NC tho our house there is getting renovated so we’re staying at the hose that was my parents’ an hour north getting it read to sell.
Come visit Colorado sometime…It’s nice.