COLUMN: Nearly half of British Columbians united in loneliness

So it seems that we British Columbians are a lonely bunch.

That is, if the results of a survey conducted last month by the United Way paint an accurate picture.

The findings of the survey, carried out in mid-September, suggest that nearly half (46 per cent) of people who live in our province feel lonely, at least some of the time. A further 41 per cent said they felt they didn’t have anyone to talk to in their own neighbourhood and 38 per cent feel “isolated from other people in their community.”

While the timing of the survey’s release is interesting, in that it comes right before one of the nation’s biggest family-centric holidays of the year, the figures themselves aren’t overly surprising.

For one thing, it seems to me that it’s just part of the human condition to feel a bit lonesome sometimes. Friends’ and families’ schedules don’t always mesh with our own and we occasionally find ourselves without companionship when we might like to hang out.

In many cases, of course, it goes much deeper than that and because there is still something of a stigma associated with admitting to being lonely, it’s quite possible that the number of people who confessed to feeling that way could actually be a little on the low side.

Exact figures aside, what’s behind this somewhat depressing trend?

Making connections can be challenging at any point in life, but I think age is certainly a factor. Once you’ve left school or university, meeting like-minded people becomes more difficult.

Children and teens are more scheduled than ever and that leaves parents with less time to spend in the company of other grownups.

As we move into our senior years, feelings of isolation can grow, too.

These are universal issues, but there’s clearly more to it than that. So, is B.C. a particularly lonely place?

Anyone who’s lived or spent time on the Prairies or in Eastern Canada might well notice a difference in how open folks are to welcoming new people into their circle.

Loneliness it would seem, is a problem that is exacerbated by the West Coast lifestyle. Famous as an outdoors person’s paradise (and it is that) it’s also, somewhat ironically, a place where many people are forced to work long hours to pay to live in such an inviting environment.

The situation isn’t hopeless, of course. There are countless clubs and groups to join, depending on what you’re into.

The same survey also found that “giving back” helps, noting that 29 per cent of people felt like they were “a part of something meaningful” when they gave to charity.

As fate would have it, we are also coming up on one of the most charitable times of the year.

As temperatures drop and the days grow shorter, it’s tempting to squirrel ourselves away inside our cozy homes, but beginning this weekend with Thanksgiving and heading into the busy Christmas season, now might actually be the perfect time for anyone who’s feeling a bit low to begin reaching out and helping people in need of a kind word or gesture – a little something to help us all feel a bit more united.

Brenda Anderson is editor of the Peace Arch News.

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