The Real Dangers of Loneliness

‘So long as the memory of certain beloved friends lives in my heart I shall say that life is good’ – what a fantastic quote by Helen Keller.Where does that leave many Londoners? A recent study shows that 1 in 20 Londoners have no close friends. This would surely leave many without vital support. Ruth Sunderland, the Chief Executive of RELATE, said that this survey reveals a divided nation with many people left without support, friends or partners. She goes on to say that it appears a significant number of people have no close friends or rarely feel loved. WOW!This sense of isolation would have a devastating effect on someone’s self-esteem. Who would you turn to during life’s challenges? London throws a whole array of challenges in your face on a daily basis, your career, romantic relationships, finances, injury, illness – without a close friend, dealing with these problems can become overwhelming.Could this be a result of modern technology? Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have all but eliminated the need to talk to people face-to-face. Is this technological distancing killing our ability to maintain meaningful relationships? With divorce rates constantly on the rise it’s clear that as a nation our ability to preserve long-term bonds is slipping. But why is the incidence of loneliness so high in London? Does the fast-pace of this vibrant city overwhelm us and sweep us along in an autonomous current? The evidence suggests so.Maybe there are some people who actually prefer to be alone. Maybe we have become such an untrusting society that people don’t want to venture out for the risk of being hurt.  These are all questions that need to be investigated. But regardless of preferences, humanity need friendships and relationships in order to survive, and this study highlights a worrying shift in our culturePersonally I can assure you that our approach to friendships now feels much different than 30 or 40 years ago when values, trust, politeness and behaviour was much different. Maybe generational factors have a part to play in this whole issue. I am sure that there will be more academic work to determine why we seem to be a society with less and less close friends.

‘The best time to make friends is before you actually need them.’