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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Looming shadow of loneliness

Due to increasing use of technology and rapid changes in society, it is becoming difficult to build human networks, making today’s youth vulnerable to loneliness.

12th October 2018, 03:33 Hrs

Jay Joshi


Development is a double-edged sword. It brings benefits in terms of technology and standard of living but also has some costs. Last year, the government of UK appointed a minister for loneliness. This is an issue which affects around 14% of the population of that country. At this point of time, the news may seem absurd to us here in India, but we too seem to be falling prey to this issue.

According to a report by the World Health Organization in 2015, 4.5% of the total population in India suffered from various depressive disorders. Another 2004 report by the National Sample Survey Office, 4.91 million people in India were living alone and suffered from loneliness. 2004 is a decade ago. More recently, in Mumbai alone, A first-of-its-kind study conducted by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, between October 2015 till September 2017 analysing patients in its major hospitals found that 31 per cent patients visiting these hospitals suffered from mental disorders. Depression and loneliness formed the second-most common mental disorder with 20 percent of the total patients reporting the problem. 

Loneliness is a rising issue in India today, and psychologists point to a host of factors for the same. “It has to do with the way the Indian society is currently evolving” says Dr Abhijit Nadkarni, a psychologist associated with Sangath, Porvorim. “People are finding it difficult to build networks. Young people are spending a lot of time in the virtual world and are not able to build genuine networks in the real world,” he says, observing that networks in the real world are an illusion. 

One of the factors that play a role in the problem is the lack of time. “In a  fast-paced world, people do not have time to talk to and listen to each other, which means people are lonely even when they are surrounded by people. So, a lot depends on the choices you make,” says Dr Nadkarni. 

Even as we say that increasing interaction with technology might be the key factor in driving youth to loneliness, another major element of the problem is migration. And this makes the issue present across all socioeconomic boundaries. When people, especially the poor, migrate, they leave behind their home and culture and come to cities to a different environment. Combined with the stress of adjusting to a new life, the city populace at times subtly lets the migrants know that they are outsiders. Studies show that migrants are much more at the risk of developing loneliness rather than an average individual. 

The best move to counter loneliness is to forge genuine humane networks and limit interaction with technology. “We need to focus on building genuine networks in the real world” says Abhijit Nadkarni, and further adds, “Kids, who are spending time absorbed in their cell phones and social networking websites should be encouraged instead to go out, meet people and talk to them.” One effective antidote to loneliness is thinking, and finding a sense of purpose in life, and appreciating small joys of life. 

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