Our invisible cages: Why cultural isolation is ruining our health

lone treeYou know when you read something profound and it sort of clicks, then you come across several other timely articles and examples and you think, “That’s it. This makes total sense! But now what can I do about it to help?”

Last night I came across this article about the opioid crisis we’re experiencing in BC at the moment. Author Andrew MacLeod examines the many complex factors that contribute to deaths due to opioid addiction amongst middle age men and women, including broken marriages, guilt, shame, past abuse, high housing costs, debt, poverty, mental illness and the weakening of social support groups like churches and service clubs. But the overarching reason for addiction, MacLeod argues (citing retired Simon Fraser University psychology professor, Bruce Alexander), is cultural isolation. “When I talk to addicted people, whether they are addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling, Internet use, sex, or anything else, I encounter human beings who really do not have a viable social or cultural life. They use their addictions as a way of coping with their dislocation: as an escape, a pain killer, or a kind of substitute for a full life. More and more psychologists and psychiatrists are reporting similar observations. Maybe our fragmented, mobile, ever-changing modern society has produced social and cultural isolation in very large numbers of people, even though their cages are invisible!’

Social and cultural isolation aren’t just catalysts for substance abuse. I feel it’s at the very heart of what’s breaking down our society as a whole right now, even though we have access to more information and knowledge than ever before. You think we’d be so enlightened by now, right? (more…)