Social Well-Being: Is Your Busy-ness Leading to Loneliness?

Social Well-Being: Is Your Busy-ness Leading to Loneliness?

Social Well-Being: Is Your Busy-ness Leading to Loneliness?

Lee esto en EspañolAmericans love to be busy. Unfortunately, juggling our jobs, families and home chores means the average person “works” 60 or more hours per week. No wonder people just want to plop down on the sofa and binge watch their favorite TV shows when they get home.

All of this busy-ness leaves little time to socialize in meaningful ways with our family, friends and neighbors. Our growing reliance on technology is another culprit. Screen time is changing the way we connect. In-person, face-to-face exchanges are less common.

More of us are living alone, too. Back in the 1940s, living alone was rare. The U.S. Census leaving site icon from that era reported only seven percent of households were solo dwellers. By 2021, the percentage had jumped to 28 percent. Today, about 36 million people live alone.

The social fabric of our world has changed. As people have begun to seek more solitude, that retreat can drift toward self-inflicted loneliness. Over time, choosing quiet time over making time to connect with others can make a person feel left out. Once people feel left out, it's hard to get back in.

So we do a dance back and forth, a mental tug-of-war between staying connected and being left alone. Considering the scientific link between loneliness and poor health, we do so at our own peril.

Medical research shows socially connected people live longer, have better immune systems and respond better to stress. When it comes to warding off everything from heart attacks to dementia, connections matter to your good health.

So how can you reconnect if you’ve had “too much” alone time? Here are some ideas.

  1. Reconnect with old friends. Even if it’s been a while since you’ve talked or seen one another, don’t hesitate. If the situation was reversed, you’d most likely be happy to hear from an old friend.
  2. Lend your in-person time to a cause or organization you care about. Choose something you can do regularly, at the same place, at the same time with the same people so you can build bonds with others.
  3. Join a group of kindred souls. It doesn’t matter if it’s a biking club, co-op garden or community theater. Regular activity with the same group of people boosts your chances for new friendships.
  4. Make a social plan. When a bout of loneliness hits, give yourself something to look forward to. Email or text a friend to meet for coffee or lunch. Invite them to a museum, festival or some other outing.

Have you ever retreated only to find yourself withdrawing too much? Did your mental or physical health suffer? Tell us about it in the comments.

Just joining us for this series? Check out previous article on physical well-being, or head back to the beginning.

Sources: Census Bureau Releases New Estimates on Single Families and Living Arrangements, leaving site icon United States Census Bureau, 2021; How Your Social Life Might Help You Live Longer, leaving site icon The Greater Good Science Center, University of California, Berkley, 2022; 7 Ways to Feel Less Lonely and More Connected, leaving site icon Psychology Today, 2020.

Originally published 8/17/2016; Revised 2022