NEW YORK, March 15, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – One of the consequences of mass contraception is the loneliness of the elderly in some of the richest countries in the world.
So concludes Mary Eberstadt in an excellent essay commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae. Her article, “The Prophetic Power of Humanae Vitae: Documenting the Realities of the Sexual Revolution”, has appeared in the April 2018 issue of the scholarly Catholic journal First Things.
In her article, Eberstadt lists a number of realities that have come to pass in the world since the invention of hormonal contraception. They include the increase of abortion, which is inextricably tied to the increase of the use of contraception; a gradual Protestant backlash against contraception, especially in Africa; the downturn in female happiness and the rise of sadomasochism in pop culture; the implosion of the Anglican communion; and the greying of the western world.
“Fifty years into the sexual revolution, one of the most pressing…issues for researchers is not overpopulation,” Eberstadt writes, “but its opposite: under-population.”
The “overpopulation” hysteria of the late 1960s has proven to be an “ideological chimera”, she says. Originally very useful to those who wanted the Church to change her teaching on contraception, the overpopulation myth has led to what Eberstadt calls “an epidemic of loneliness”.
“This finding would not surprise Pope Francis, who in an interview with La Repubblica in 2013 called the “loneliness of the old” one of the worst “evils” in today’s world,” she writes. “Fifty years after the embrace of the pill—undeniably, because of the embrace of the pill—loneliness is spreading across the materially better-off countries of the planet.”
Birthrates have plummeted across the western world and Japan. The Pill has not led to women having three children instead of seven but to women having one child or two children, or none at all. And there are consequences.
According to the New York Times, four thousand elderly Japanese now die alone every week. In 2017, the Grey Lady reported that every year there are news stories in Japan of people who die alone in their homes. Often their deaths go unnoticed and unremarked for weeks or months, rent and utility payments silently flowing out of the deceased’s bank accounts, until finally neighbours complain about a bad smell.
There is now a Japanese business whose remit is to clean apartments after the corpses of “lonelies” are discovered in them.
Unremarked deaths and an increase in loneliness generally have also featured in news stories and studies in such European countries as France, Germany, Portugal, and Sweden. The new loneliness is often blamed on divorce and “family rupture.” Eberstadt notes with irony that one can “read through many ‘loneliness studies’ without seeing reference to children, a striking omission that says a good deal about our era.”
Although loneliness can strike anyone, it is the elderly who are most at risk. Apparently in Germany over 20% of people aged over 70 have regular contact with only one person or none. Over two million Germans aged over 80 live alone.
“One in four receives a visit less than once a month from friends and acquaintances, and nearly one in 10 is not visited by anyone anymore,” Der Spiegel reported in 2013.
The German newsmagazine bluntly said that loneliness among the elderly is expected to rise:
“…the fact that more and more people are opting not to have children threatens to worsen the isolation experienced by older people. Indeed, childlessness significantly increases the risk of loneliness. Likewise, since people are becoming more mobile and live less frequently near their aging parents, the older generation can no longer depend on their children to remain an integral part of their lives and look after them someday. Consequently, the risk of loneliness among older people could possibly rise in the future, says [German Center of Gerontology] director Clemens Tesch-Römer.
In Britain the issue of loneliness is so serious, said to affect nine million people in the UK, that the government has appointed a Minister for loneliness. And far from being a gentle melancholy, loneliness has serious repercussions for the health of elderly people, including cognitive decline.
Eberstadt contrasted such “human poverty” with the material wealth in those same greying societies. She also pointed out that what unites Japan and European countries culturally is the sexual revolution, which increased divorces rates, depressed marriage rates, and drove down the number of children.