An Epidemic of Loneliness

In a previous post I answered the questions – Is It Wrong To Feel Lonely As A Christian? – and I would encourage you to go back and read that post if you have not.  This post – An Epidemic of Loneliness  – is a follow-up to that post.

I am going to go out on a limb here and assume most readers are Americans.  And as Americans we have all been fed the American Dream – Work Hard and Succeed.  We put people on a pedestal that are successful, especially self-made success stories.  People who pull themselves up by their bootstraps and single-handedly defy the odds.

But I recently heard someone criticize this mentality.  And while it sounded harsh, they said we reap what we sow.  If we sow into this fiercely independent lifestyle where we don’t need anyone – we will die alone. 

Hearing that stopped me in my tracks.  And the more I thought about it the more it broke my heart, because relationships enrich and bring meaning into our lives.  Wife.  Mother.  Friend.  Coworker.    

And I think this fiercely independent mentality isn’t what God had in mind for us either.  He created us to be in a relationship with him.  In creation, God declared everything he made good, except one thing – loneliness.  When he looked at Adam he declared:

“It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

Genesis 2:18 ESV

“It is not good that man should be alone.”  Loneliness.

Yet as a nation, pre-pandemic, the surgeon general in 2018, Dr. Vivek Murthy, stated we are experiencing an “epidemic of loneliness” as a country1.  Dr. Murthy likened this epidemic of loneliness to obesity or the opioid crisis1.  

Ironically, in an age where we are more connected than ever virtually, we are becoming less connected with people physically.  Pre-pandemic one study found that 1 in 5 Americans “felt lonely or socially isolated.1”  And studies are showing these numbers are increasing post-pandemic1

Why is loneliness a big deal?  Because it is a form of stress that negatively impacts our health1.  It lowers the effectiveness of our immune system, making us more susceptible to illnesses1.   Loneliness increases our risk of emotional disorders like depression and anxiety1.  It can even put us at an increased risk of Heart disease, Cancer, Hypertension, Dementia, and even premature death1.

All this to say, if we have felt lonely we are not alone.  However, we need to remember it is not good for us to be alone.  Science backs up what God declared so long ago. We need to be mindful that feeling lonely is an indicator that we need healthy connections in our lives where we feel safe and seen.  Next week we will talk about the need for connection to be truly healthy and thriving. 

1  Leland, John. “How Loneliness is Damaging our Health.” New York Times.  April 2022