More Americans are choosing to live alone than ever before. And while it’s healthy to have “down time” by yourself, one study says too much alone time may shorten your life.
Researchers at Brigham Young University studied 3 million people.
They found people who said they were lonely, felt socially isolated or lived alone, had a 30 percent increased likelihood of death.
The study says loneliness and isolation are as damaging as obesity. The impact of loneliness has also been likened to smoking 15 cigarettes a day or excessive drinking. So partner up.
But in the 1970s, a professor of Psychology in Vancouver called Bruce Alexandernoticed something odd about this experiment. The rat is put in the cage all alone. It has nothing to do but take the drugs. What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently? So Professor Alexander built Rat Park. It is a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want. What, Alexander wanted to know, will happen then?
In Rat Park, all the rats obviously tried both water bottles, because they didn’t know what was in them. But what happened next was startling.
The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.
This gives us an insight that goes much deeper than the need to understand addicts. Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It’s how we get our satisfaction. If we can’t connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find — the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. He says we should stop talking about ‘addiction’ altogether, and instead call it ‘bonding.’ A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn’t bond as fully with anything else.
So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.
Our world is dying for connection. For real. You can have nice cars or fancy things but if you don’t have connection with humans then it’s for nothing. Not connection over typing or texting, but actual human connection. That’s why we’re all sad even though we’re richer than we’ve ever been.
I’m training to be a coach for relationships and connection. If you want to know more about this then get a hold of me.
Featured image screenshot from “Sun and Moon” by Above and Beyond