Loneliness Seeks Company

Nigel Cohen
4 min readApr 29, 2024

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An emerging scourge for the majority of the population

Photo Art: Nigel Cohen

Rose* joined us at the Soul Cafe last week in Maidenhead. She is a single mother. She looks after her two young children, one of whom is autistic. She no longer has any time for herself. She feels guilty. She loves her children. But she craves a conversation with another adult, someone she feels close to.

She has become a member of a group that no one wants to be a part of. It has grown year-on-year over the last twenty years to almost epdiemic levels.

Experiencing Loneliness

In the UK, over 4 million people report feeling lonely “often or always”. In the US, 36% of individuals feel “serious loneliness”. Certain demographics are particularly affected, with 50% of mothers with children and 60% of young adults feeling completely isolated.

The Soul Cafe is a welcoming space open to everyone, with a special focus on those who feel lonely or isolated. We put a lot of effort into helping people form new connections and friendships, offering a variety of activities such as shared meals, bingo and crafting.

It is heartbreaking to hear first-hand accounts of people feeling isolated, invisible and insignificant. Many express the pain of having no one to share their lives with and feel burdened by their loneliness.

At the Homeless Lounge we run for rough sleepers in Maidenhead, Tom* shared “If I disappeared tomorrow, no one would even notice”. His words echo the sentiments of many lonely people we encounter, who struggle with feelings of worthlessness and invisibility.

The Impact of Loneliness

Loneliness extends its impact far beyond simply causing sadness; it significantly affects our physical health. Shockingly, loneliness is associated with a mortality rate equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, surpassing both obesity and lack of physical exercise. Its consequences include coronary heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes, dementia and some cancers, as well as depression and anxiety.

Despite its profound implications, loneliness remains a topic we do not address nearly enough. Its repercussions on individuals and the strain it puts on the healthcare system are reaching catastrophic levels.

Causes of Loneliness

In both traditional media and online platforms like Medium, discussions about loneliness often revolve around its impact on various groups, such as single individuals, the unemployed, those living in poverty, and those dealing with physical or mental health conditions. Attention is given to communities subjected to prejudice, including ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ individuals, and refugees. However, there are other groups, identified by research as particularly vulnerable to loneliness, who receive less attention. These include young adults aged 16–24, individuals living alone, those with poor academic attainment, and surprisingly, people living in rented accommodation.

Photo Art: Nigel Cohen

Loneliness is a complex issue with subtle contributing factors that perpetuate its hold on society. It forms its own vicious cycle; individuals often attempt to alleviate their loneliness and pain through substances like drugs and alcohol. For many, particularly those between the ages of 10 and 20, comfort eating and excessive use of social media serve as coping mechanisms, albeit short-term ones. However, these behaviours expose them to health risks and often lead to overstimulation in disconnected online environments, exacerbating their sense of loneliness. This, in turn, fuels a cycle of increased reliance on these harmful practices, further worsening their feelings of isolation.

Feeling a sense of hopelessness is understandable given the challenges of loneliness. However, there is reason for hope.

Solving Loneliness

Loneliness is a natural consequence of our social nature as human beings. It’s the root cause behind the physical and emotional health issues associated with loneliness, as well as its link to increased mortality rates. Interestingly, one of the most effective solutions to loneliness also lies within our social nature.

The antidote to loneliness is simple yet profound: human connection. Friendship, compassion, and caring for others are gifts inherent to us all. Often, the simple act of bringing people together in a warm and friendly environment is enough to break the chains of despair caused by a pervasive sense of isolation and disconnection.

Loneliness has a profound and wide-ranging impact, affecting a significant portion of the population, especially those in high-risk situations. However, the solution is within our grasp.

By making a conscious effort to connect with others, we can alleviate the burden of loneliness. Places like the Soul Cafe provide a perfect example of how people can come together freely and easily. Engaging in activities that foster connection allows us to build meaningful relationships. Whether you are seeking companionship or helping others find it, we all benefit when our community becomes a warmer and safer place where everyone feels included and valued.

** names changed to protect identity

Further Reading

If you enjoyed this article, you may enjoy my Animating Vision website at www.animating.vision. It brings to life a vision of the people we live with and the world we live in.

To see more of my Photo Art, check out the Photo Art gallery at www.animating.vision/art.

And if you are an artist seeking to influence the world, you may want to explore whether to incorporate the emerging genre of Morally-Explicit Art as part of your artistic expression at www.morally-explicit.art.

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