When looking at the below graph, there is a clear correlation pointing to increased feelings of loneliness amoungst younger generations, such as Millennials and even more so Gen Z, when compared to Boomers. It begs the question...
What are the social consequences of our increasingly modern, digital, and individualistic culture?
It seems obvious to blame increased screen time, and specifically social media, but there is a multitude of ways in which our society has changed over time that all work towards compounding this problem. This complex issue is a consequence of not only modern technology, but the affects we've allowed it to have on devaluing communal, face-to-face elements of society more prevalent in older generations.
The following 2019 national survey was completed by U.S. insurance company Cigna, polling over 10,000 U.S. adults to explore the impacts of loneliness in culture and workplaces.
Infographic from Statista
What else has been increasingly forcing us inwards and away from one another over the last 50 years?
Economics must also be playing a significant role. Extensive studies have pointed to current minimum wage standards being below the liveable requirement in developed countries including Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. This makes sense when considering the affordable housing crisis faced in nearly all major cities around the world. Everyday life being unaffordable has lead to many people working multiple jobs, the rise of the gig economy, and an overall decrease in available time for socialization.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor; Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2020 minimum wage in the United States is around 33 percent lower than the minimum wage in 1970. Although the real dollar minimum wage in 1970 was only $1.60, when expressed in nominal 2020 dollars this increases to $10.67. The minimum wage in 2019 was $7.25, which decreases to $7.15 when expressed in nominal 2020 dollars.
The following graph clearly illustrates the rise and fall of the inflation-adjusted value of the U.S. minimum wage standard from 1930 to 2020. Similar trends can be seen with minimum wage standards around the world.
Economics, modern technology, and an increasingly individualistic society are only a handful of the multitude of factors contributing to rapidly increasing rates of loneliness and resulting mental health decline. Perhaps these three discussed factors feed one another, and perhaps there are other less obvious contributors that we don't yet understand or see.
It's time for us to begin unpacking loneliness for the complex issue that it is, and only then can we address it head on as a society.
Loneliness is, without question, at epidemic levels. As published by Statistics Canada in their 2021 report about loneliness amoungst Canadians, loneliness is an important indicator of health and well-being. Loneliness is associated with stress, depression, anxiety, and has other mental health consequences. Loneliness is also associated with various physical ailments such as cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and increased morbidity and mortality (Hawkley and Cacioppo 2010). COVID-19 and the increased need to socially isolate over the past 18-months and counting has only exacerbated this issue, and now is a crucial time to address loneliness is demographics young and old.
We welcome you to be part of the conversation as we aim to unpack and address loneliness through multi-generational connections in the development of Hello Jack!