If you think about it, people have become less and less connected in the past 20 years or so. According to Stephen Ilardi, Ph.D., author, associate professor of psychology and clinical researcher specializing in the treatment of depression,
Remarkably, 25% of Americans have no meaningful social support at all – not a single person they can confide in. And over half of all Americans report having no close confidants or friends outside their immediate family. The situation today is much worse today than it was when similar data were gathered in 1985. (At that time, only 10% of Americans were completely alone).
There are many ways in which we have progressively become disconnected from each other. Think of all the time we spend alone; sitting in traffic commuting to and from work, sitting in cubicles at work, hours spent sitting at a computer surfing the internet-the list goes on.
But we’re truly not designed to live like this. For the great majority of human history, people resided in small, intimate hunter-gatherer communities. And anthropologists who spend time with modern-day hunter-gatherer bands report that social isolation and loneliness are largely unknown among them: group members spend the bulk of their time – virtually all day, every day – in the company of friends and loved ones.
Even Americans of a few generations ago used to benefit from a richness of community life that has all but disappeared, as we’ve witnessed a long, slow retreat into the hermetically sealed comfort of our fortress-like homes . . . deep friendships replaced by screens, gadgets, and exhausted couch-potato stupor.
The toll? Increased vulnerability to mental illness. Social isolation is a huge risk factor for the onset of major depression, which has more than doubled in prevalence over the past decade. And there’s growing evidence that isolation increases vulnerability to various forms of addiction, as well.