Don’t despair, loneliness is part of life

By Daniel J. Bauer

I do not know if other cultures are as obsessed with surveys as ours seems to be, but I do know most surveys I read of affect me very little. For a survey to touch me, it’s got to practically hit me in the forehead.

This is why results this week on a recent local survey with some 1,068 participants aged 20 to ��above 65�� is on my mind. The Mental Health Foundation sponsored the study in late September, and reports about it are attracting attention.

One headline in the English press threw in a special word. Well, I thought, that’s an eye-grabber. ��Nearly one-third of Taiwanese lonely: mental health poll�� (TT 12-3-14 p. 2) I am feeling these days that, yes, loneliness is worth some contemplation. Does loneliness have to be such a big problem, however? Isn’t it a natural part of life?

The report to which I refer doesn’t go into detail, but hints that feelings of loneliness as picked up in the survey may relate to staying indoors too much and indulging for long periods of time in You Know What. One sentence opens with ��prevalence of Internet use�� and ends with ��nearly one in three people have experienced loneliness in the past year.�� Mixed feelings came over me as I read of this phenomenon, this public and personal alert, if you’ll permit me to call it that.

A quick sidebar: As an English teacher and columnist, I continue to rally for the proper use of ��depression,�� which we ought to reserve for its clinical connotation. Depression as a prolonged period of deep sadness or an intensely painful struggle to find meaning in life (and so on) is in most cases a treatable illness. Let’s not throw ��depression�� around like a Frisbee. It is a serious word, and is not the same as ��sad�� or ��unhappy.�� We should also use ��loneliness�� with care. There is of course loneliness that is truly debilitating, something akin to depression, indeed, and it is a show-stopper and it may well require counseling. There is also a form of loneliness that is a normal reality we all experience.