"There are times when loneliness overwhelms you"

Carlos Giovanny keeps the exact count: a month and 26 days ago he arrived in Tarragona. This 36-year-old Colombian has arrived with the intention of looking for a future. He is a paramedic and since he arrived he has not stopped knocking on doors; among them that of Creu Roja, where he signed up as a volunteer. He has already collaborated in the syringe exchange program and helped in first aid courses for immigrants. It is an activity that, he says, "gives me a lot of joy." He is also studying Catalan.

Carlos is beginning to weave his social networks after leaving friends, work and family in his country. He points out that he keeps in touch with his loved ones by phone or WhatsApp, but "there are times when you feel depressed by loneliness," he acknowledges. He is very grateful for the treatment they give him in the entity, but he feels that the way of relating here is different "the treatment is much more formal than in Latin America," he says.

A priori, a profile like Carlos's is not the first that comes to mind when talking about unwanted loneliness. However, the data from the First Observatory Report on this phenomenon carried out by Creu Roja has shown that, beyond the elderly who live alone, there are many other groups that are especially vulnerable. Migrants is one of them.

Pandemic among the young

Anna Sabaté, provincial coordinator of Creu Roja in Tarragona, explains that the entity had already detected that loneliness is a vulnerability in itself and that it was already growing before the Covid-19 pandemic, but after it they found that it was essential to deal with it. So they did a complete survey among 1,511 users in Catalonia (397 in Tarragona). The main result was that 77% experience some type of loneliness, and 16.6% of them admit to feeling serious or very serious loneliness.

The study served to dismantle some ideas, such as that it is an exclusive problem for the elderly, as explained by the provincial president of the entity, Ramón Grau. The highest indicators of loneliness, in fact, were found in the youngest age group in the study (18 to 29 years old).

Sabaté points out that we must not lose sight of the fact that the pandemic caused us to change the way we relate to each other. 73% of young people said that after covid the circle of people with whom they meet in person and the frequency with which they do so has been reduced.

He also points out that the survey is based on perceptions and expectations and young people are the ones who have the most relationships based exclusively on social networks where "everyone has friends and it seems that they are always partying".

However, from the entity they point out that new technologies can help alleviate situations of loneliness and expand the possibilities of interacting with others.

... And Mrs. Teresa uses the tablet

An example of what access to technology can mean is that of Mrs. Teresa Martorell, from Roquetes. She is 77 years old and has been a widow for 22 years. She lives alone and due to health problems she rarely leaves the house. From her She has three daughters who are looking out for her, but they have her children and her obligations.

In his circumstances, the participation of Creu Roja has been an important relief to his feeling of loneliness. They call her frequently and from time to time they go to visit her. Of course, what was a revolution for her was when «a girl came and taught me how to use the tablet and the mobile. So at night I talk to my daughters », she recounts, she assures that« I am very, very grateful ».

Another of the study's findings is that “loneliness is inversely proportional to income level”, that is, the more poverty, the more loneliness. Migrants, those who are unemployed or those with some type of disability also feel more alone. Also those who live in an urban environment feel more isolated than those who live in a rural environment.

live alone and be alone

In any case, they clarify that living alone is not the same as feeling alone. In fact, among people who live alone, the percentage of unwanted loneliness is very similar to that of those who live with others.

Living alone is even something that more than half of those surveyed aspire to (especially women) who consider that living alone is good or has more advantages than disadvantages. Three out of 10 people under the age of 65 want to live alone when they reach old age. "The stigma of abandonment that accompanies people who live alone is disappearing," says Sabaté.

"We have a lot of work, not only the Red Cross, but also the administrations and society," acknowledges the provincial coordinator, who points out that, in light of these data, initiatives to address unwanted loneliness will not be able to focus exclusively on a single collective. The president of the entity insists on the same idea and recalls that loneliness is a vulnerability factor in itself and the WHO recognizes that it is a risk factor "both for physical and mental health."

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