More loneliness, especially in group cultures

More loneliness, especially in group cultures

A family takes a selfie during the Magh Mela festival in India.AP image

“Loneliness is a hidden epidemic,” said then UK Prime Minister Theresa May in 2018. This insight led her to appoint a minister for the unit.

Individual cultures may create loneliness: there is no longer a community, we are not saying goodbye on the street, and we do not even know who lives next door. This is the price we pay for all this freedom, it seems.

But according to Hugh, this picture of loneliness in the West is too simplistic. I looked for an explanation.

How does the picture show that our individual culture is the most unified?

Hue: The media often focuses on social isolation and isolation. Often times, when you look at blog posts, for example, you see that people confuse loneliness with isolation. I recently read one News item On the problem of loneliness. Nowhere in the article I found figures about the unit. You have only mentioned how often people talk to each other, how much time they spend alone and whether they are single. This does not necessarily mean anything about unity. Loneliness is a feeling.

Can we properly compare people’s feelings of loneliness in one culture compared to another?

To find out if the meaning of the word “alone” is the same in different cultures, I interviewed people in different countries and different cultures.

I asked them to explain loneliness to an imaginary person who had never felt lonely. Descriptions were all comparable. Participants said they feel they are not part of anything or that they are not understood. Some of them described that there seemed to be a glass wall between them and the world.

“It was great to see people from all over the world working in roughly the same way, even though they lived in such different conditions.”

How did you discover that the current image of the unit is wrong?

Research on loneliness has been conducted in various countries. In it, researchers ask questions such as: How often do you feel lonely? W: How did you feel lonely?

Others ask indirect questions about feelings of loneliness, such as, How many times have you felt separated in the past two weeks? This type of research has found that group cultures are, on average, more lonely. I found this interesting.

Luzia Heu discovered during her PhD research that loneliness is not relatively more common in individual cultures.  Photo of Luzia Hugh
Luzia Heu discovered during her PhD research that loneliness is not relatively more common in individual cultures.Photo of Luzia Hugh

How do group cultures become more united?

Group cultures generally have stricter rules for social relationships. Because these rules are so strict, it is difficult to comply with them. As a result, people are more likely to deviate from the social norm and feel “different” or “less satisfied” more often. These feelings are typical of loneliness.

Moreover, the consequences of deviating from the social norm are often greater in group cultures: others distance themselves from you, or worse yet, exclude you.

Do you have an example?

An Indian woman I spoke to for my research did not feel supported by her husband. She clashed with his family, as she moved there. Not having the option to divorce, she was stuck in a situation where she felt abandoned and different. This led to a feeling of extreme loneliness. In an individual society she could have solved this by leaving him and his family.

To clarify that no one is alone in isolation, to combat stigma and to inspire people to search for new solutions, Hugh and her colleagues are currently working on a film project. In the online documentary series Loneliness across cultures 42 people tell their story of situations in which they felt lonely. It will be released this spring.

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