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英语阅读孤独是一种健康流行病

作者:佚名    文章来源:本站原创    更新时间:2018/7/10

英语阅读孤独是一种健康流行病吗?
   作者:By Eric Klinenberg
    来源:英语学习
      Earlier this year, Britain appointed its first“minister for loneliness,” who is charged with tackling what Prime Minister Theresa May called the “sad reality of modern life.”
      Public-health leaders immediately praised the idea—and for good reason. In recent decades, researchers have discovered that loneliness left untreated is not just psychically painful; it also can have serious medical consequences. Rigorous epidemiological1 studies have linked loneliness and social isolation to heart disease, cancer, depression, diabetes and suicide. Vivek Murthy, the former United States surgeon general, has written that loneliness and social isolation are “associated with a reduction in life span similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity.”
      But is loneliness, as many political officials and pundits2 are warning, a growing “health epidemic”? I don’t believe so, nor do I believe it helps anyone to describe it that way. Social disconnection is a serious matter, yet if we whip up3 a panic over its prevalence and impact, we’re less likely to deal with it properly.
      Anxiety about loneliness is a common feature of modern societies. Today, two major causes of loneliness seem possible. One is that societies throughout the world have embraced a culture of individualism. More people are living alone, and aging alone, than ever. Neoliberal social policies have turned workers into precarious free agents,4 and when jobs disappear, things fall apart fast. Labor unions, civic associations, neighborhood organizations, religious groups and other traditional sources of social solidarity are in steady decline. Increasingly, we all feel that we’re on our own.
      The other possible cause is the rise of communications technology, including smartphones, social media and the internet. A decade ago, companies like Facebook, Apple and Google pledged that their products would help create meaningful relationships and communities. Instead, we’ve used the media system to deepen existing divisions, at both the individual and group levels. We may have thousands of“friends” and “followers” on Facebook and Instagram, but when it comes to human relationships, it turns out there’s no substitute for building them the old-fashioned way, in person.
      In light of these two trends, it’s easy to believe we’re experiencing an “epidemic” of loneliness and isolation. Surprisingly, though, the best data do not actually show drastic spikes5 in either loneliness or social isolation.
The main evidence for rising isolation comes from a widely reported sociology journal article claiming that in 2004, one in four Americans had no one in their life they felt they could confide in6, compared with one in 10 during the 1980s. But that study turned out to be based on faulty data, and other research shows that the portion of Americans without a confidant7 is about the same as it has long been. Although one of the authors has distanced himself from the paper (saying, “I no longer think it’s reliable”), scholars, journalists and policymakers continue to cite it.
  The other data on loneliness are complicated and often contradictory, in part because there are so many different ways of measuring the phenomenon. But it’s clear that the loneliness statistics cited by those who say we have an epidemic are outliers. For example, one set of statistics comes from a study that counted as lonely people who said they felt “left out” or “isolated,” or “lacked companionship”—even just “some of the time.”That’s an exceedingly low bar, and surely not one we’d want doctors or policymakers to use in their work.
  One reason we need to be careful about how we measure and respond to loneliness is that, as the University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo argues, an occasional and transitory feeling of loneliness can be healthy and productive. It’s a biological signal to ourselves that we need to build stronger social bonds.
  Professor Cacioppo has spent much of his career documenting the dangers of loneliness. But it’s notable that he relies on more measured statistics in his own scientific papers than the statistics described above. One of his articles reports that around 19 percent of older Americans said they had felt lonely for much of the week before they were surveyed, and that in Britain about six percent of adults said they felt lonely all or most of the time. Those are worrisome numbers, but they are quite similar to the numbers reported in Britain in 1948, when about eight percent of older adults said they often or always felt lonely, and to those in previous American studies as well.
  Professor Cacioppo is one of the leading voices advocating for better treatment of loneliness. But, as he has written, “to call it an epidemic of loneliness risks having it relegated8 to the advice columns.”
  In particular, overstating the problem can make it harder to make sure we are focusing on the people who need help the most. When Britain announced its new ministry, officials insisted that everyone, young or old, was at risk of loneliness. Yet the research tells us something more specific. In places like the United States and Britain, it’s the poor, unemployed, displaced9 and migrant populations that stand to suffer most from loneliness and isolation. Their lives are unstable, and so are their relationships. When they get lonely, they are the least able to get adequate social or medical support.

I don’t believe we have a loneliness epidemic. But millions of people are suffering from social disconnection. Whether or not they have a minister for loneliness, they deserve more attention and help than we’re offering today.
  今年早些时候,英国政府任命了有史以来第一位“孤独大臣”,负责处理首相特蕾莎·梅所言的“现代生活中的可悲现实”问题。
  随即,公共卫生领导人赞扬了这一提议——其赞扬是有理由的。近几十年来,研究人员发现,如果对孤独症状不加以治疗,不仅会造成精神上的痛苦,也会引发严重的疾病。严谨的流行病学研究表明,孤独以及人际隔离与心脏病、癌症、抑郁症、糖尿病和自杀等问题相关。前美国卫生局局长维韦克·墨菲写道,孤独以及人际隔离“会导致人寿命缩短,其危害程度相当于每天吸15支香烟,甚于肥胖症所带来的危害。”
  但是,孤独真的如许多政治官员和权威人士所警告的那样,逐渐成为“健康流行病”了吗?我不这么认为,我也不相信这样描述孤独有助于任何人。缺乏社会交往是一个严重的问题,但如果我们对其流行和影响感到恐慌,我们就不太可能正确处理它。
  对孤独感到焦虑已经成为现代社会的普遍特征。如今,孤独的产生可能有两个主要原因。一是由于全世界都普遍接受了个人主义文化。与以往任何时候相比,现在越来越多的人开始独居并独自老去。新自由主义的社会政策已经将工人变成了不稳定的自由职业者,一旦失去工作,事情就会马上分崩离析。工会、民间团体、社区组织、宗教团体以及其他能够提供社会凝聚力的传统来源目前也正在减少。日复一日,我们愈加感受到自己变得孑然一身。
  另一个可能的原因是由于智能手机、社交媒体以及互联网等通信技术的崛起。十年前,脸书、苹果和谷歌等公司承诺,他们的产品将有助于建立有意义的人际关系和社会团体。而事实却与之相反,我们所使用的这些媒体反而加深了个人与团体层面已有的隔阂。我们可能在脸书和Instagram等社交媒体上有成千上万个“朋友”和“粉丝”,但当论及人际关系时,我们仍需要老方法,即面对面的交流。
  鉴于这两种趋势,我们很容易就会相信自己正在经历一场以孤独和孤立为特征的“流行病”。但令人惊讶的是,有精确的数据显示,人们的孤独和孤立感并没有呈现出急剧的增加。
  一篇广为报道的社会学期刊文章称,在2004年,有四分之一的美国人认为自己没有可以信赖的人,而在20世纪80年代,只有十分之一的美国人认为自己没有可以信赖的人。这成为人们孤立感上升的主要证据。但结果表明,这项研究是基于错误的数据。而其他研究显示,目前无密友的美国人比例与长期以来的状况基本持平。尽管其中一位作者已與该论文划清界限(他表示,“我已不再认为它是可靠的”),但是学者、记者以及政策制定者仍继续对其进行引用。
  其他关于孤独的数据则既复杂又常常自相矛盾,部分原因是由于衡量这一现象的方法多种多样。但很明显的一点是,坚持孤独病蔓延说法的人所引用的统计数据都是异常值。例如,有一组统计数据来源于其中一项研究,该研究认为,感到“被忽略”或“被孤立”,或者“缺乏陪伴”的就算作孤独的人——即使只是“偶尔”感到也是如此。这是一个非常低的门槛,而且我们肯定不希望医生或政策制定者将此标准应用于他们的工作之中。
  我们需要审慎考虑如何衡量和回应孤独感的一个原因是,正如芝加哥大学心理学家约翰·卡西奥普所认为的那样,偶尔且短暂的孤独感可能有益于身心并且能提高效率。对于我们自身来说,这也是一个生物信号,提醒我们需要建立更紧密的社会关系。
  卡西奥普教授在他的职业生涯中花费了大量时间来论证孤独所带来的危害。但值得注意的是,他自己的科学论文是基于更加精确的统计数据,而不是上述提到的数据。他在一篇文章中指出,约有19%的美国老年人说他们在接受调查前一周的大部分时间里都感觉到孤独,而在英国,约有6%的成年人说他们总是或大部分时间都感到孤独。虽然这些数字令人担忧,但这与1948年英国公布的数据非常相似,当时约有8%的老年人说他们经常或总是感到孤独。无独有偶,美国之前公布的研究数据也是如此。
  卡西奥普教授是倡导对孤独症状进行更好治疗的领军人物之一。但是,正如他写道,“把孤独称作孤独流行病,冒有把其归入读者问答专栏的风险。”
  特别是,夸大这一问题会使我们更难以确保去关注到那些最需要帮助的人。当英国宣布其新部成立时,官员们坚称,无论年轻人还是老年人,都面临着孤独的危险。然而,这项研究为我们提供了一些更为确切的东西。在美国和英国这样的地方,最容易受到孤独和孤立折磨的是那些贫穷、失业、流离失所以及移民的人群。他们的生活缺乏稳定性,人际关系也是如此。当他们感到孤独的时候,得到足够的社会或医疗支持的可能性也最小。
  我认为,我们并没有患孤独流行病,但确实数百万人正在忍受与社会脱节之苦。无论是否设置孤独大臣,他们都需要我们给予更多的关心和帮助。
  1. epidemiological: 流行病学的。
  2. pundit:(经常接受咨询的)权威,专家。
  3. whip up: 挑起,激起……的强烈感情(或热情)。
  4. neoliberal: 新自由主义的(反对国家过多干预经济,强调自由市场的重要性);precarious: // 危险的,不确定的。

 5. spike: (数量或比率的)激增。
  6. confide in: 信赖,向……吐露秘密。
  7. confidant: 知己,密友。
  8. relegate: 把……归类。
  9. displaced: 无家可归的。 阅读感评

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英语阅读孤独是一种健康流行病

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