The insurance company Cigna did two wide-scale surveys on loneliness back in 2018 and 2019, and found an increase in the US population reporting feeling lonely. 61% of those surveyed reported feeling lonely – and this was all pre-pandemic! Their survey was based off UCLAs Loneliness Index. It doesn’t flat out ask people “Are you lonely?” but has questions such as “How often do you feel that you lack companionship?”
The results showed an 7% rise in loneliness between 2018 and 2019 – again all before a global pandemic. Here’s a snapshot of the results from the 2019 survey:
Why am I bringing this up? Because this is what I heard last night in our course wrap-up: we have all been lonely, and this class brought us all together. At least for one night a week, we engaged in face-to-face (ish) meaningful conversations and the connection we’ve all been missing in our lives.
I think especially pre-pandemic, it was easy to feel like you’re the only one who was lonely and that everyone else has this connection you don’t. My “aha moment” was when I heard one of the heroes of my life, Brene Brown, say in an interview that she feels lonely. There are probably tens of thousands of people who would love to be her best friend (including me!), and yet, even she feels lonely. It clearly happens to the best of us.
The other reason I think this is so important to highlight is that, as MBAs and future leaders, we have an opportunity to be embracers of disruption and connection in the workplace. According to a Harvard study, we spend 90,000 hours of our lives at work. Similar to Professor Kane’s joke last night about setting the right culture and values so that you can be “nimble for good” rather than “nimble for evil,” we can lead by example and actively participate in combating loneliness at work.
And finally to drive in my point to know we’re all connected in feeling alone, I thought it was worth highlighting that no group is exempt:
- Gen Z reported experiencing loneliness more intensely than Baby Boomers, with scores of 50 vs 43 out of an 80-point scale
- Social media users with high activity reported more loneliness at 73% than light users at 52% (this would have been an interesting topic for our class, sigh)
- Men experienced higher rates of loneliness at 63% than women at 58%
In summary, you’re not alone in feeling alone. Please spread the word.
Cigna 2019 Study Overview: https://www.cigna.com/about-us/newsroom/studies-and-reports/combatting-loneliness/
Peppercorn, S. (2019, July 26). Why You Should Stop Trying to Be Happy at Work. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved January 7, 2020 from https://hbr.org/2019/07/why-you-should-stop-trying-to-be-happy-at-work.