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Bars have closed.

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Cafes are open only for food pickups. Even dating apps have issued warnings to users to avoid meeting up with potential flings.

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On these s, users can post anonymous seeking others to meet up with for recreational activities a of posts are scams or disguised posts from sex workers, both of which are often flagged and deleted upon discovery. Some posters are now looking for writing partners, while a few seek weed or pills and a chance to trade rugged individualism for drugged solipsism.

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But most recreational posters are writing overtly coded messages treating this time of quarantine and social distancing like varsity cuffing season. His only requirements? But it has made the mind settle faster.

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So they post. The coronavirus pandemic has also coincided with what public health officials and researchers identify as a loneliness epidemic.

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While loneliness has traditionally been considered a phenomenon associated with old age, researchers have recently noticed spikes in Gen Z and millennials across the world. A survey by Cigna found that 54 percent of Americans as well as 60 percent of Austinites and Houstonians are lonely.

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That same year, the UK appointed a minister of loneliness to coordinate a response to the challenge in their country. Some researchers worry that widespread social distancing might enable those who are preternaturally isolated and lonely to become even more fearful of interacting with other people.

But for some on Craigslist, plague has inspired the opposite response.

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Many feel so disconnected that they have nothing to lose by breaking our new asocial contract. A large percentage of Texans are facing stay-at-home orders alone or otherwise without family.

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While living alone is distinct from social isolation and from loneliness, the three are correlated. All of them are associated with increased risk of premature mortality, while social isolation and loneliness, in particular, have been linked with increased risk of dementia, heart disease, cancer, and stroke.

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The Craigslist poster in southeast Dallas lives alone and rarely ventures out. Several weeks before the county announced a shelter-in-place order, he had been staying home, feeling sick from a change in medication.

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He told me that before heading out to Walmart to buy groceries and witnessing a run on toilet paper a few weeks ago, he had little sense of the seriousness with which others were treating the pandemic. Two days before the poster and I talked, Dallas County judge Clay Jenkins had issued a shelter-in-place order.

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He was now limiting responses to his Craigslist post to phone calls. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychologist at Brigham Young University, referenced research that suggests that people who are more socially connected live longer, in part, because others encourage healthier behavior.

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Holt-Lunstad made clear that people should abide by social-distancing measures because the risk associated with the virus is immediate, while serious health effects of isolation and loneliness are more long-term. Other Craigslist posters have been trying to fight loneliness by communicating digitally. A San Antonio man and woman who met on Craigslist were trying to cowrite a story—but it took some time to find each other because the initial post was misread by a few as sexually coded, the man told me.

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Others have posted about video chatting—an effective temporary substitute for face-to-face contact but not a full replacement, according to researchers like Amy Banks, a f ounding scholar at the International Center for Growth in Connection. Recognizing this problem, Kathryn M. Daniel, a gerontological nurse practitioner and associate professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, told me that one of the biggest health interventions public officials can make in the future is increasing broadband Wi-Fi access to all community members.

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Many researchers have attributed the loneliness epidemic, in part, to the rising age of marriage and lower rates of childbearing. Over the past half century, the median age of first marriage has risen by nearly eight years for both men and women, to 30 and 28 respectively.

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The fertility rate has dropped from 3. There are more single Americans now than ever before.

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Many single people are decidedly not lonely. But for some, the lack of a partner and a family can exacerbate feelings of loneliness.

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Anthony, a Waxahachie man, followed his mother to the Dallas area more than a decade ago after being honorably discharged from the Marine Corps. He enrolled in school to become a film technician, but just as he was graduating his mom died of cancer.

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In service of finding company, Anthony periodically posts on Craigslist. When we talked he suggested he was nervous about the ethics of leaving the post up online, and he had practical concerns as well: he usually vets those who reply by meeting them in person at a public place to screen for safety and avoid scams.

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Now that was no longer an option. Starting out is harder.

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Some people will hit breaking points and need to go out. I had just moved to a new city myself—from Santa Barbara to Austin—and have few friends in my new dwelling. I thought about downloading dating apps for the first time since a breakup and felt the slight embarrassment of thirst.

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When I relented and began swiping, one woman I matched with told me the apps were great for entertainment during empty days, but there was only one problem.

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