As countries get richer, they do not get happier. The Easterlin Paradox
The 2018 World Happiness Report is out and while America’s income per capita has increased markedly during the past 50 years, well-being is in decline. The report describes this interesting paradox as likely due to three things that have everything to do with social connection: Addiction, Depression and Obesity (often co-mingled). We know that having positive relationships is one of the 5 key aspects of human flourishing.
According to Yuval Harari, more of the world’s population dies prematurely due to their own hand in suicide rather than terrorism, war, or crime combined. More people die from eating too much than from eating too little and there is more disability and premature death from eating highly palatable, low-nutrient-food than from famine, drought, Ebola, or ISIS attacks combined. We are experiencing high rates of addiction, loneliness, lack of belonging, disconnection and untreated mental illness. These social factors are all precursors to parasuicide (living recklessly) such as binge eating, gambling, or internet addiction; other self-destructive behaviors; and suicide.
The alarming data requires us to look toward a new way of preventing disease and promoting health. Lifestyles that default into isolation are health risks. So here are some best practices for seeking wellness through social connection:
• Make sure your close relationships are mostly positive (3:1 Ratio).
• Schedule time with friends because relationships matter. Very little in life that is positive is solitary.
• Write and deliver a gratitude letter.
• If you are close to an addict who is refusing treatment, make your own well-being a priority and resist co-isolating with the addict. The addiction destroys its host and all of those around him/her.
• Depression is a (mostly) treatable illness and it festers in isolation. Resisting treatment creates needless suffering on the host and their loved ones, thereby impacting the wellbeing of others. While inertia is a major symptom, seek help. For treatment resistant depression check out this excellent talk.
To attain real happiness, humans need to slow down the pursuit of pleasant sensations, not accelerate it.
― Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
The Photo is Eileen O’Grady Combating Social Isolation in September 2018.