Katic: Measuring Loneliness

American Sociological Review

American Sociological Review

This American Sociological Review paper may read like a dry social science paper, but it is one of the most profoundly sad things I have ever read. It looks at a large survey that asks people how many close confidants they have to speak with, and compares its results in 1985 to its results in 2004. In very clear and precise language, it measures our loneliness.

“…with almost half of the population (43.6percent) now reporting that they discuss important matters with either no one or with only one other person.”

The study thinks about civic engagement, and it cites Putnam, who “follows in a rich tradition, dating back to de Tocqueville, in arguing that Americans’ ties to other members of their communities help enhance our democratic institutions and personal well-being.” The authors recognized the decline in civic engagement, but did not expect to see less interpersonal ties.

We were clearly wrong. The number of confidants mentioned in 2004 is dramatically smaller than in 1985.

Although they backtrack a bit and correct for a methodology that may have slightly exaggerated the change, the authors conclude that “Americans are connected far less tightly now than they were 19 years ago.” In particularly, local neighbourhood ties and work ties seem to have suffered the most.

But Facebook can fix this, right?…

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Gordon Katic (@gordonkatic) has been student coordinator for the Terry Project for over two years, and in that time started BARtalk, and the Terry Project on CiTR 101.9FM. A former Ubyssey columnist, and now a student at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism, Gordon is trying to use journalism to tell important stories about global issues.