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A survey shows the world is getting lonelier. What’s driving it? – Winnipeg

A new poll suggests people around the world are getting lonelier.

Meta and U.S.-based analytics firm Gallup surveyed people from 142 countries. Results found roughly a quarter of respondents feel “very or fairly lonely.”

Nigel Mason said his loneliness was acute during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was going to school and working, I was back and forth here and my community, and being away from them … it was pretty lonely around that time,” he said Wednesday morning.

He said while the loneliness has subsided since restrictions lifted, there’s still elements of it in his life.

“You still want to keep your distance and you don’t want to get other people sick … so yeah, another way it can get lonely.”

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Dr. Moira Somers, a clinical psychologist, said loneliness can cause serious mental and physical health issues, and the pandemic accentuated already-existing loneliness.

“We need people, we cannot thrive without them,” Somers said, but noted pandemic lockdowns aren’t the only thing driving the loneliness surge.

A decline in religious gathering attendance and public debate on polarizing topics have changed the way society interacts, which Somers said is driving people apart.

Social media is also a factor to blame.

“Those are not a substitute in any way shape or form for real … in-person connection, with people that you know,” Somers said.

The survey shows the lowest rates of feeling lonely are reported among older adults, with only 17 per cent of those aged 65 and older feeling very or fairly lonely. The highest rates of feeling lonely were reported among young adults aged 19 to 29, with 27 per cent feeling very or fairly lonely.

Michele Bannister said she’s noticed people her age struggling with loneliness and their mental health, and tries to combat it in realistic ways.

“I go for walks my friends. Be around. Just get out there and do things in the community,” she said.

The psychologist said she encourages her clients to find ways they can socialize in tangible ways, like in things they already do.

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“If if they’re a reader, can they go to the lecture at the library? If they’re a knitter, can they invite other knitters over? Just really simple ways that begin to introduce new people to each other and to signal that you’re a person who is really wanting to, to nurture this friendship,” she said.

Somers also said socialization doesn’t have to break the bank.

“It doesn’t cost much to make somebody a cup of tea, it doesn’t cost much to meet in a park and go for a walk,” she said.

“There have always been ways for people to get together and to do things as a group.”

— with files from Iris Dyck

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