Last week, I posted a blog about an article in the New York Times discussing the lost art of active listening. (“Are You Listening?”).

It seems that my blog post was very timely because NPR just published an article on the loneliness of Americans. (“Most Americans Are Lonely, And Our Workplace Culture May Not Be Helping”  By Elena Renken. (“NPR Story”)

Citing a new survey by Cigna, the NPR story notes that more than 60% of Americans (or more than 3 out of five) are lonely “…feeling like they are left out, poorly understood and lacking companionship….” (Id. at 1.) And “… loneliness appears to be on the  rise as 13% more participants complained of loneliness than occurred in 2018.” (Id.)

Cigna surveyed over 10,000 adult workers in July and August of 2019 using the UCLA Loneliness Scale.

The survey found 63% of men complained of loneliness while  58% of women did so. Notably, social media played a role in that “… 73% of very heavy social media users [were] considered lonely as compared to 52% of light users.” (Id. at 3.)

Not surprisingly, the feelings of loneliness differed among the generations with the youngest generation- Gen Z (those between 18-22 yrs. old)- having the highest average loneliness score  while the Boomers having the lowest score.  The Cigna study notes that nearly eight in ten of Gen Zers (79%) and seven in ten of millennials (71%) are lonely vs. 50% of Boomers. (See: new survey.)

(Query: Does this have to do with the amount use of social media? The younger generation, the more the use of social media?)

Further, those with incomes of $25, 000 or less had a 7.2-point higher loneliness score  than those with incomes of $125,000 or more. (50.6% vs. 43.3%). And those living in urban (46.7%) and suburban (44.7%) areas are less lonely than those in rural areas. (Id.)

As relates to the art of listening, the survey showed that those adults who had good working relationships with others were 10 points less lonely and those who had a “good work-life balance were less lonely as well.”. “When colleagues felt like they shared goals, average loneliness scores dropped almost eight points.” ( See NPR story at 3.)

Doug Nemecek, the chief medical officer for behavior health at Cigna summed it up:

In person connections are what really matters…Sharing that time to have a meaningful interaction and a meaningful conversation, to share our lives with others, is important to help us mitigate and minimize loneliness.”  (Id. at 4.)

And this gets back to the art of listening:  To ask open ended questions with a genuine curiosity (rather than with a hidden motive or agenda) for the sole purpose of getting to know the other person better.

No doubt, you have been in a public place where you have seen two people together but ignoring each  other as they busily tapped on their phones. They are together alone. This Cigna study emphasizes the point made in The New York Times article; we need to learn the art of listening to have relationships with others and avoid loneliness. ( And, most probably, also put down our phones down for a while or turn them off altogether!)

…. Just something to think about.


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