Loneliness Now an Economic Issue?
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When it comes to talking about loneliness, one doesn’t know where to start or how to start. According to reports, loneliness is worse than smoking fifteen cigarettes a day. In 2004, National Sample Survey Office reported that 4.91 million people in India were living alone and suffering from loneliness. According to the National Mental Health Survey of India, the nation is saddled with mental health issues such as depressive and anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, suicidal tendencies, psychotic and neurotic disorders as well. Recently, U.K. appointed a minister for dealing with loneliness when they realised that the economic losses because of this issue were coming to 4.9 trillion yen. This appointment has definitely come as a relief to everyone but why it took losing trillions of yen to make us realise that loneliness is a force that needs the concentrated and undivided attention of a minister? Does it also highlight the world’s preoccupation to measure everything in terms of money?
An Unsettling Force
Loneliness is a serious force that has been unsettling the humankind for quite some time now. There is great advancement happening in this world. In terms of science, economics, technology and even the rise in people’s moments related to gender, equality and race are wondrous. And yet something doesn’t feel right even with all the grandiosity of these advancements. Many people are being pushed to the margins or they themselves are choosing to live in the lonely corners of life. Several world leaders like Dr Daisaku Ikeda, who have described loneliness as a “compelling issue,” have come forward to break those barricades that are making the voices of mental well-being go unheard.
Loneliness isn’t something that a particular section of the society goes through. From the top till the bottom of the social hierarchy, instances of people suffering from this “epidemic” can be easily found.
Painters, writers, refugees, soldiers, senior citizens, business leaders, entrepreneurs, experts etc everybody go through loneliness. Hollywood, particularly, has been very vocal. After losing many much loved stars like Robin Williams, Chester Bennignton, Michael Jackson to loneliness and seclusion, thankfully the need to speak up for mental health as a gripping and riveting issue and the need to come up with an action plan to deal with it has been realized.
Today’s generation particularly face a lifestyle that is converged and self absorbing. Sandeep Amar, founder Inaaj - AI Machine Learning News Feed, identifies material fascination as one of the causes, “One factor for loneliness is the increasing focus on material possessions and demonstration. Most of the discussions are around the material possessions, some people with limited means are feeling severely alienated in this scenario.” Many youngsters have often complained that the “work to home” routine leaving them with no time often sets the scale for an isolated life. Financial and social pressures to respond to the demands of the world is a big reason for neglecting or overlooking mental health.
The Solitary Road
Even business leaders who are said to be on the top of their games suffer from loneliness or mental health issues. The journey to the top of the ladder requires a lot of mental strength. Mona Singh, co-founder of India Accelerator says, “Entrepreneurs, in their single-minded focus of trying to build their business, often distancing themselves from friends and family; and the pressure of long work days and maintaining a positive attitude can be isolating.” Singh has also seen many examples of start-up founders struggling with depression and neglecting their mental health. “This, in turn, impacts their productivity in the long run,” she adds.
According to Rajesh Aggarwal, Managing Director, Insecticides India Ltd, sometimes passion becomes the cost of mental health. “Entrepreneurship is a game of passion. It requires a lot of commitment and time.” According to Aggarwal, target-based approach and ensuring the fuller utilisation of the firm’s resources often makes the entrepreneurial journey difficult and isolating.
Now that the issue is gaining momentum and recognition, and action plans are being devised to deal with it, one can hope that the world will head into a direction wherein loneliness is completely and absolutely taken care of.