Loneliness, a silent epidemic in Chile

Loneliness, a silent epidemic in Chile
Loneliness, a silent epidemic in Chile

[Esta pieza es una versión de uno de los envíos de la newsletter semanal que Chile manda a sus lectores cada miércoles. Si quiere suscribirse, puede hacerlo a través de este enlace].

Margarita Sanhueza is 73 years old and lives in the municipality of Estación Central, in the west of Santiago. The last time she spoke to her brother was two months ago, on the phone. She has four children and six grandchildren who are more into communicating by cell phone than visiting each other. When Margarita feels like going for a walk she doesn’t know where to go but, above all, she doesn’t do it because she has no one to go with. She then knits in solitude, and turns on the television. And so day after day, month after month, year after year.

Margarita is the protagonist of The epidemic of loneliness that no one talks about in Chile: “My companion is the TV”, the report that we published on Sunday and written by the journalist Antonia Laborde. Margarita’s story, unfortunately, is repeated by thousands of people of various ages in the country. But there are very few Chileans who openly confess, like her, that they are alone.

In Chile, for example, 19% say they do not have a close friend, according to the recent Bicentennial Survey of the Catholic University of 2023 (in the United States it is 8%). And those who declare themselves most alone are young people between 18 and 24 years old (22%) and those over 55 (20%). In general, women tend to feel more isolated than men. According to sociologist Eduardo Valenzuela, researcher in charge of the social cohesion chapter of the UC survey, “poor women do not have friends.” “That is where the highest proportion of people without friends is. “That puts a lot of pressure on the woman,” he adds.

For Valenzuela, the results of the study are “worrying”, but they agree with the signals that have been registered in Chile. “It is assumed that as a country becomes better educated, improves its per capita income and living conditions, it should also improve in coexistence, trust, and loyalty to institutions. That, however, did not happen,” she says. And Rodrigo Figueroa, professor of sociology at the University of Chile and scholar of the topic of social isolation, points out that for a couple of years now loneliness has been talked about as the disease of the 21st century and that today it is the great challenge of public health. .

The report has had a wide impact, as it has touched on a secret that Chileans of all ages keep. But it has also drawn attention that young people, a generation that in their social networks can have hundreds and thousands of friends, in real life 19% do not have a close friend.

Other stories

Thank you for receiving us in your mailbox. Here, below, we leave you the best journalistic pieces of the week worked from the EL PAÍS editorial office in Chile.

  • Argentina, in a matter of a few months, after the arrival of President Javier Milei, has become more expensive in dollars. And the prices there are so high that more and more of its citizens are traveling to Chile to buy. If in April 20,109 private vehicles entered Chile through the Los Libertadores border crossing, the closest to Santiago, on the same date last year there were 8,617, according to data from the Chilean National Customs Service. My colleague María Victoria Agouborde visited two of the most important shopping centers in the Metropolitan Region, and in this report, Argentines buy again in Chile to escape inflation, she found very interesting testimonies that reflect the trend. One of them is Cecilia, from Córdova, who has come especially for a car seat for her little daughter who is almost one year old and also for clothes because, she told Victoria, “in Argentina, clothes for that age are very expensive.” ”.
Diners walk through a shopping center in Santiago (Chile), on May 17.SOFIA YANJARI
  • For several days, the Chilean tennis player Alejandro Tabilo amazed the world on the court of the Masters 1000 in Rome. I recommend this chronicle by our columnist Aldo Schiappacasse, Alejandro Tabilo, the new star who chose to play for Chile, in which he tells the story and feat of this athlete who “did not speak Spanish but danced cueca, he met La Moneda at the age of 18 and he had to earn dual nationality on a field.” Today he is 26 years old and “after overcoming severe overweight, he astonishes the circuit.”
  • The Government of President Gabriel Boric has returned to one of its campaign promises, postponed due to the economic crisis after the covid, and has announced that in September it will present a project to Congress for the forgiveness of the State Guaranteed Credit debt ( CAE), one of the credits offered to higher education students in Chile to finance their degrees. The announcement has opened a debate not only about the use of resources with respect to other measures, but also regarding those who have already paid off the debt and those who have not. I recommend reading the column: A prize for the irresponsible and privileged? by Pierina Ferretti, sociologist and executive director of the Nodo XXI Foundation, in which she addresses the controversy and points out that if more than half of CAE debtors earn less than 750,000 pesos a month (about $670), “we are far from “We are talking about young profiteers.”
  • In the last decade, the figure of the Chilean poet and Nobel Prize winner in Literature, Gabriela Mistral (born Lucila Godoy Alcayaga in 1889), has been revalued, and an example of this has been that Congress has just approved that April 7 is he Gabriela Mistral Day. The journalist Antonia Laborde has interviewed the Chilean writer Patricia Cerda, who lives in Berlin, and whose latest book is Lucilla (Planeta), a novel based on Gabriela Mistral’s last trip to Chile in the mid-1950s, where she mixes her biography with fiction, and which she has added to her books about Violeta and Nicanor Parra, that of the Spanish soldier poet Alonso de Ercilla and that of the German painter Mauricio Rugendas, among others. For the writer, “the men of her time did not see Gabriela Mistral as a woman.”
  • I wrote another case of collusion that has been reported by the National Economic Prosecutor’s Office (FNE). I say another because, between 2008 and 2019, at least half a dozen of these situations have enraged Chileans: the concerted increase in the prices of more than 200 medications between three pharmacies and the concerted increase in the value of chickens, the paper hygiene, bus tickets and gynecological care. This time, however, there is a particularity that has made this new case especially sensitive, since the two largest companies in the industrial and medicinal gases market are involved, investigated for having coordinated at the height of the covid pandemic. and when health centers in Chile required oxygen for patients. They sought not to compete with each other and thus be able to control the prices they charged their clients. The case today is in the hands of the Free Competition Court (TDLC) and the sentence has been transversal: President Boric has said that it could become “a serious attack on public health.”

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