Michael Stolpe, Kiel Institute for the World Economy and DFG-Cluster of Excellence “Precision Medicine”
Loneliness is a major risk factor for mental ill-health, including suicide, and other chronic diseases in many countries. I develop a model of how recent trends in globalization, with the effect of commodifying emotional experiences in a wide range of consumer products, contribute to the loneliness epidemic. Building on the theory of constructed emotions, my model identifies memories generated by relationship-specific romantic events as key to the long-term stability of mutually caring relationships, such as marriage. By reducing the price of standardized commodified event substitutes, in the hunt for economies of scale, globalization raises the opportunity costs of investing in romantic relationships and undermines the formation and recollection of long-term memories from emotional events within relationships. With increasing commodification, the romantic event-based model of partner selection and matching is predicted to give way to a new characteristics-based model, further raising the risk of ending up in loneliness.