From Alzheimer’s to anxiety, from diabetes to depression, the spiraling, signature maladies of modern life suggest Americans are sick and sad.
Junk food, junk pharma, and junk culture all are just symptoms.
Charles Hugh Smith of the indispensable Of Two Minds blog reveals the root.
“Financializing the human experience,” he says, is the social plague of our age:
“It means turning everything into a financial transaction that profits an enterprise and the state. Since the state needs profitable enterprises to generate its tax revenues (and to pay wages that generate payroll/income taxes), the state is an implicit partner in every financializing the human experience transaction.”
A hallmark of the trend’s pervasiveness is the fact that few notice it. Consider that:
- Tools once lent freely among neighbors are now bought from the big box store — even if only for one use
- Child care, once confined within the affectionate bonds of friends and family, is outsourced to day care centers
- Dinner at home with family is becoming ever rarer — this year, for the first time, Americans spent more on dining out than on groceries.
And on and on, and all increasingly seen as unremarkable.
An entire generation is growing up without experiencing the friendly, cooperative, cash-free interchanges that were once ubiquitous.
Which matters, because financialization of transactions once propelled only by love and respect is both a cause and an effect of loneliness.
And loneliness kills.
The Risks of Isolation
A Brigham Young University study published in March 2015 combined results of 70 earlier studies encompassing about 3 million people.
Loneliness, it found, conveys more health risk than obesity.
In fact, loneliness is roughly as dangerous to health as alcoholism.
The report concludes that “feeling” lonely increased the risk of death during the course of the studies by 26 percent.
But what about people in these studies who avoided others because, they said, they prefer to be alone?
Healthwise, this kind of person fared even worse.
Voluntarily living alone increased the risk of death by 32 percent.
Unfortunately, these days, people with this preference seem to be more numerous, and more ostensibly satisfied with themselves. My Facebook feed overflows with advice on “How to Treat Introverts Like Me.“
“It’s just who I am,” they proclaim. “Give me my space.”
But I would encourage the proud introverts to consider the extent to which their behavior is cultivated.
As Charles Hugh Smith points out, governments, banks, and corporations of all stripes profit from social atomization. And they appear to be winning in this effort.
In the 1920s, five percent of Americans lived alone.
In 2013, it was 27 percent.
“Not only are we at the highest recorded rate of living alone across the entire century, we’re at the highest recorded rates ever on the planet,” said the study’s co-author, Tim Smith. “With loneliness on the rise, we are predicting a possible loneliness epidemic in the future.”
Isolation can be seductive. No compromise required. No quid pro quos exacted.
In this modern American “society of the maximal self,” as psychologist Martin Seligman has termed it, the advantages of sequestering oneself can seem multifold.
And the potential hassles of emotion-driven interaction overwhelming.
But at least consider this idea: Your — our — adoration for isolation is not us talking.
It’s an avaricious, parasitic culture talking through us.
No human being truly thrives in utter isolation, including misunderstood artists like you… and me.
We can loudly insist that we are thrilled, delighted, intoxicated by autonomy.
But if we carefully consider the times when we’ve actually been happiest, the review inevitably takes us to a moment that was intimate — or crowded — but almost certainly not alone.
There’s more to robust health than an optimized diet, disciplined exercise, and maximized sleep.
Your most potent health solution is someone else.
And the lovely part is someone else’s most potent health solution is you.
(If “financialize” is a word, “definancialize” is as well. I’d love to hear how you have definancialized your life. Please send your story to email@example.com.)
Editor, Natural Health Solutions
Julianne Holt-Lunstad et al “Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality A Meta-Analytic Review.” Perspective on Psychological Science, March 2015, doi: 10.1177/1745691614568352