Loneliness Costs

How to write this without sounding like a lonely old guy? But, it is news and personal finance plays a part. I guess I’ll just begin.

From one of my other blogs, Pretending Not To Panic;

A new report from the Surgeon General says that social isolation’s effects on mortality are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes every day.” – Vox

Cough. Cough. Hack. Hack.

As a society we fought against that mightily. Sure, it was personal choice, but it was also an enormous health care cost.

Check social media. Read between the lines and the posts and see how many people are alone. The trend was increasing for years. People could be more independent; so there was less need to live with someone. Churches and temples may exist for spiritual pursuits; but as my mother implored me, “Please go to church so you can at least find someone to get married to.” I suspect she wanted more grandkids. A mental health counselor confided in me that most of his patients didn’t need professional help, but they did need someone to listen to them. Pubs and bars did that in stereotypical Baby Boom America as men would commiserate about women and work; but drinking and driving don’t mix, anymore. Social clubs and bridge clubs did that for women in his stereotypical Baby Boom America; but they were finally able to get jobs. Less drinking and driving, more opportunities for everyone, both good things; but at a loss of social connections. 

We connect through texts and tweets, posts and pictures. Pets gain prominence. They’re more convenient and are less likely to disagree – at least in English. They do, however, gain Likes and Shares as cute pictures of them populate our news feeds. They rarely have to be photo-shopped out of pictures.

My doctor even considered prescribing me to get a puppy because it would probably be good for me.

As a female friend commented about my dating life; “Money is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” She said that just before I lost 98% of my net worth. So much for “For richer or poorer…” 

(See, I told you this would get around to personal finance. That is what this blog is supposed to be about – mostly.) Soon after that I tried eHarmony. At least at that time, annual salary was one of the fields to fill in. I cancelled as I became poorer.

Even within the conventional social structure, socializing (not just dating) costs time and money. The news shows stories about people working 7 days a week, frequently at more than two jobs. Time? What time? Unless they socialize at work they don’t socialize. If they do work, and socialize, they have to find time for getting to, spent time at, and get back from socializing. Money may be involved at events. There’s gas, and food, and – ideally fun; but getting to the fun requires enough time and money to make that journey.

I’m glad I am no longer part of that situation. (Tom Got A Job) Finally, I have the time and money to go to art shows, farmers’ markets, and generally visit friends, or potential friends-to-be. I might even start hosting parties again – after I clear out some debt and pay off an extraordinary homeowners association bill (>$1,400, mostly for amenities I can’t or don’t want to use, but must pay for. But I digress.)

Lonely people know loneliness can hurt. Loneliness can be a dull ache that nags 24 hours a day. The advice I frequently heard was to outwardly ignore being alone. Keep that pain inside. It might be real, but it is not attractive. Nah. Been there. Hid that. Eventually it hurts.

Browse social media on a Friday or Saturday night. How many single folks are posting?

It isn’t all about being single. Being single is easy to describe, but loneliness happens for many reasons: partners separated by work or military service, people who recently lost a partner, people feeling ostracized because they feel they don’t fit in politically or culturally.

By the way, being alone is not that same as being lonely. Introverts have perfectly valid lives and may not need or want anyone. Being in a crowd can be a very lonely place. Does this need to be said? No. It is not new; but it is worth remembering.

The pandemic tested many people about loneliness. What’s your balance of introvert versus extrovert? I know a new recluse or two. I also know folks who were more than eager to see a smile and feel a hug, again – regardless of the risk. I found I have a bit of both. I need a bit of both. I can do the cabin-in-the-woods thing; but I’d benefit from going into town for a meal or two a week, and maybe volunteer with a group for something like tending land. And, of course, if there’s a dance or a party…

As I type that I look back and realize that I think in terms of breakfast because it is satisfying and less expensive, and working on the land because it is gratifying and a cheap way to socialize. I’m not the sort for suit-and-tie fundraisers – unless I’m paid to be there. I do have my price.

Rambings, no, not ramblings. That report from the Surgeon General has inspired a lot of thoughts and introspection. Smoking’s impact was obvious. It almost killed my Dad. Smoking is visible. Loneliness may pass unnoticed, even in crowds. Yet, loneliness is as bad as smoking 15! cigarettes a day!? Look past the obvious aspects of loneliness. How great are the costs to mental health, community, compassion, work, joy? I don’t know, but loneliness is something that shouldn’t require grandiose studies, initiatives, marches, and vigils. 

Believe it or not, it was safe to knock on your neighbor’s door simply to say hello. People could have different political opinions without requiring a change of wardrobe. Having to work every available hour to survive wasn’t a necessity, which meant there was time for Self and Others.

I like to think of myself as living reasonably green. I have friends who are stellar examples who should be awarded for their personal lifestyles. 

I was disappointed when I took one of those carbon footprint quizzes to estimate my ecological impact. It was atrocious. It turned out that my score was bad because it was at a time when I traveled internationally (to Canada, about three hours from my place), I use propane for heat and hot water (radiant floor), and hadn’t upgraded my house to solar or new windows or a heat pump (because they cost money). I played around with the algorithm to get my score more in line with theirs. For the fun of it (and it really shouldn’t have been a joke) I pretended I was not living alone. Boom. Divide the number by two and suddenly I was living with a score like my married friends. 

There’s more to a relationship than a good carbon footprint; but there’s also more to loneliness than simply being alone.

About Tom Trimbath

real estate broker / consultant / entrepreneur / writer / photographer / speaker / aerospace engineer / semi-semi-retired More info at: https://trimbathcreative.net/about/ and at my amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0035XVXAA
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