A new Angus Reid poll released yesterday confirms that Canadians are suffering from the same epidemic levels of disconnectedness, social isolation and loneliness as our neighbours in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Among other disturbing statistics, the poll finds that 23 per cent of Canadians suffer from extreme social isolation and loneliness. A full 48 per cent of Canadians describe themselves as either lonely, isolated or both. The negative impact of such social disconnectedness on human well-being and the health of community is so serious that the UK has appointed a Minister of Loneliness. The World Economic Forum considers loneliness to be a top 3 global concern.
Social isolation involves people who have no social network, while loneliness involves people who have social networks, but for whatever reason, have no one they feel they can trust or turn to in a time of social or material need.
One third (33 per cent) of Canadians say they don't have friends or family they could count on to provide financial assistance in an emergency. Almost 20 per cent of Canadians don't have anyone to count on for emotional support in times of crisis.
The statistics show that visible minorities, Indigenous Canadians, those with mobility challenges, and LGBTQ2 individuals are all noticeably more likely to deal with social isolation and loneliness than the general population average.
Other survey findings include:
45 per cent of Canadians have not spoken to their neighbour in the last month
only 14 per cent of Canadians would describe their social lives as “very good”
62 per cent would like their friends and family to spend more time with them
The poll does not address solutions, however it is clear that the antidote to disconnection is connection. The challenge is to find an environment in which to "connect" that is not, itself toxic -- filled with discrimination, envy, ill will, abuse of power, duplicity, malicious gossip, etc. The prescription for toxic environments is: if you can't change it, get out.
There is no question that the modern economics of work and household keep people working longer hours with more stress and less security then ever before. Even more troubling, however, are the corporate values of hyper-individualism and consumerism which permeate every aspect of human relations to the point where "what's in it for me?" is the dominant concern over "love my neighbour". Clearly the latter is the one that builds connection & genuine community.
Save Your City: How Toxic Culture Kills Community & What To Do About It proposes ways that we can foster healthy human connection and community by restoring the art of living and working well together.
Right: most recent in depth interview with the author on the subject. More news interviews: www.saveyourcity.ca/media
Citizen's edition (available at all major booksellers including Chapters Indigo & Amazon)
Local Government Exclusive Edition (published by Municipal World)