Imagine there was a virus you’d never heard of which increased the likelihood of mortality by 26%, or a condition which had a death rate comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. A national health crisis would be declared, and judging by the reaction to the coronavirus, panic would ensue. This public health crisis, which leaves its victims more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s and other dementias, has a name: loneliness.
More than 2 million adults suffer from chronic loneliness; and although its most severe form is more prevalent among Britain’s oldest citizens, younger adults report loneliness more than any other age group.
A desire for social connection is fundamentally hardwired into our psychology, and so being deprived of it has devastating mental and physical consequences. Yet we live in a society which has become ever more fragmented and atomised.
The social spaces where we congregate and connect are dying. In the 1970s, there were more than 4,000 working men’s clubs; just 1,300 remain. A quarter of Britain’s pubs have closed since the beginning of the century. Nightlife is withering: in 2018 alone, the number of British nightclubs fell by a fifth.
OK, Not pubs, not working mens’ clubs, not night clubs, is like smoking 15 ciggies a day. Being in a smolky pub/club is like smoking many fewer than 15 a day. Thus the smoky pub/club is better than the absence of the pub/club.
So, we banned smoking in pubs/clubs, something which led to many of them closing down, for what sodding reason then?