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CLARIN

Loneliness: A Global Ailment Of Our Aging, Virtual Society

Globally, 25% of all people admit they have nobody to talk to, with older people living longer and young people spending their time on line.

Alone on the bench
Alone on the bench
Arturo Flier

BUENOS AIRES After reading last month's article "The Loneliness of Millennials' in Clarín, I must point out that this problem does not apply to any single generation. For starters, the world's population is aging. The World Health Organization reports that life expectancy rose by 5.5 years between 2000 and 2016. The indicator is not of course uniform across the world, and typically depends on income and healthcare available in a country or region. Even today, in some countries people live 18 fewer years on average than in wealthier places.

Still, there have been significant advances, as in the case of Eritrea, where life expectancy today is 22 years longer than early this century when it was barely 43 years, or other countries that have successfully fought AIDS, smallpox or other diseases.

In mid to high-income countries, the emphasis given to women having professional careers and calculating the costs of having a child has gradually cut down the birth rate as women have their first child later and later. In southern Europe where childbearing had traditionally been more prolific, each woman now has an average of 1.4 children.

This aging trend is generating a crisis in pensions and retirement systems worldwide, and a need for migrants to help sustain them, especially in the northern hemisphere. In parallel, it is also creating a new urban map with an explosion of single-member households including young people living with no partners, and older adults or separated individuals who are enjoying longer lives now.

Some consider this epidemic of loneliness more deadly than obesity.

One of the little-talked about results of this growing phenomenon is loneliness, particularly evident in older people but not exclusive to them. Polls show that more than 6% of Europeans (some 30 million souls) say they have nobody to talk to. The figure is 13% in Italy and Luxembourg. The United Kingdom created a government Minister of Loneliness after 200,000 people set off the alarms by telling a poll they had not spoken to anyone for a year. The lower house of Spain's legislature approved a strategy against loneliness, after 40% of youngsters aged 16-24 said they felt alone.

Unsplash/Lonely person on the bike

The aging trend is generating a crisis in pensions and retirement systems worldwide — Photo: Raoul Croes/Unsplash

Globally, 25% of all people admit they have nobody to talk to. Some consider this epidemic of loneliness more deadly than obesity, generating alcoholism, drug addiction, sleeplessness, dementia, but also skepticism and depression as it leads to faster processing of negative social information. This social phenomenon does not discriminate according to age, gender nor socio-economic level. It can be seen among hyper-connected kids living virtual lives online, in people with stable partners, and in the overworked or unemployed.

No system can eliminate our condition as gregarious and social beings, and we shall always have a need to count on "someone." The virtual world and its offer of instant and multiple connections have not managed so far to break the loneliness barrier, nor supplant the impact of physical presence or the shared experience with the "other."

Governments at various levels face the enormous challenge of acting with urgency on this particularly 21st-century ailment. They must develop strategies to promote group living and encourage a communal outlook oriented toward different age groups. Such initiatives can be applied to areas of services, team sports, tourism, and cultural activities. Ideally, such action would, in turn, become a tool for creating real jobs that will continue in the age of automation and Artificial Intelligence, and in turn stimulate productivity, innovation and ultimately feed contributions to public pensions and health services for that same aging population.

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Geopolitics

New Probe Finds Pro-Bolsonaro Fake News Dominated Social Media Through Campaign

Ahead of Brazil's national elections Sunday, the most interacted-with posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp contradict trustworthy information about the public’s voting intentions.

Jair Bolsonaro bogus claims perform well online

Cris Faga/ZUMA
Laura Scofield and Matheus Santino

SÂO PAULO — If you only got your news from social media, you might be mistaken for thinking that Jair Bolsonaro is leading the polls for Brazil’s upcoming presidential elections, which will take place this Sunday. Such a view flies in the face of what most of the polling institutes registered with the Superior Electoral Court indicate.

An exclusive investigation by the Brazilian investigative journalism agency Agência Pública has revealed how the most interacted-with and shared posts in Brazil on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and WhatsApp share data and polls that suggest victory is certain for the incumbent Bolsonaro, as well as propagating conspiracy theories based on false allegations that research institutes carrying out polling have been bribed by Bolsonaro’s main rival, former president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, or by his party, the Workers’ Party.

Agência Pública’s reporters analyzed the most-shared posts containing the phrase “pesquisa eleitoral” [electoral polls] in the period between the official start of the campaigning period, on August 16, to September 6. The analysis revealed that the most interacted-with and shared posts on social media spread false information or predicted victory for Jair Bolsonaro.

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