Does Loneliness Kill the Soul?

“Lonely/I’m Mr. lonely/I have nobody for my own.” – Bobby Vinton, “Mr. Lonely”

So, how lonely are we?  Well, if everything is to be believed, then Facebook is making us lonely, the Internet is making us lonely, telephones are making us lonely, and generally, everything that doesn’t directly engage with others is making us lonely.

And here’s some more good news about your loneliness: It might just be shortening your life. Or, to put it another way, social isolation might be killing you. Recent scientific studies have been finding some strange relations between social isolation (the condition where a person has fewer social connections in their lives) and a higher likelihood for death. However, it’s less of a biological cause, and more of a social one.

The researchers suspect that older people who have few social ties may not be getting the care they need. No one is urging them to eat right or take their medicine, and in a crisis no one is there to help.

In other words, the lack of social connections means that people in trouble will not have any outside intervention to save their lives.  This kind of data is helpful on a practical level for those with older family members who don’t go out as much.

But on a philosophical level, I see this as clear evidence that we are social creature who are designed for community and are always in need of it. In my sociology class, this seemed to be one of the ideas that sociologists and philosophers agree about. In his book Man as Man, Reverend Thomas Higgins states that:

No individual is so self-sufficient that by his own ingenuity he can fully provide for himself.  Thrown completely on his own, he finds innumerable goods of the physical, intellectual, moral, and aesthetic orders completely unattainable, or attainable only with consummate difficulty.

We need others. “No man is an island,” as the saying goes. As Christians, God has ordained that we should live in community, both in families, as well as in churches, neighborhoods, states of government — and Internet communities. Let us never neglect these, and keep up our social connections, for they provide the fuel of life.

But also, let us reach out to those who have little to no social interaction. Whether it be visits to home, conversations about life and family, or just playing World of Warcraft with them, we create a connection that may allow us to delve in further, and possibly bring something to their lives that they just happen to desperately need.

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  • I disagree with the theory, “lack of social connections means that people in trouble will not have any outside intervention to save their lives.”
    Other research has supported the idea that seeing friends regularly can actually help you recover better from major illness, feel less stress, and reduce depression.
    Friends can be as effective against depression as anti depressant medication, and if seeing friends reduces stress, and we know stress can lead to illness, then friendship should therefore reduce illness. I don’t think this is a practical thing, I think that we need to embrace a holistic view of health, that human beings were designed to live as communities, and for that reason we are in our best shape physically, and emotionally, (impacting our physical health again), when we live with a community mindscape- seeing friends, volunteering, and being a part of our communities.

  • rumitoid

    @Friendmatch, curious, what you said you disagreed with is exactly what you supported in your own words.

    @Chris, good article. Thank you. I am old enough now, well into my sixties, to know I must be something of a freak and quite unlikely to change. I thrive on being alone and find it hard to recall an instance when I felt lonely. This is not to say that I have no friends or do not socialize, a true lone wolf, but that need to do so appears to be absent. I have never gone on vacation with others, always by myself. It must be some kind of disorder. Not a person I know seems to share this malady.

  • Thanks Friendmatch,
    yeah, we actually agree on this topic. That’s exactly what I was saying.

    Though Rumitoid, I’m curious: what do you normally do by yourself? Is it reading? Internet? Crafting? exercise? Because some of those might fulfill in a secondary manner the social need of a human being, such as chatting online or working with others on a project.

  • rumitoid

    Read, write, travel, ski, golf (early weekdays), bike (non-motorized), patheos (not really interaction), and poker (for fun with the taciturn). I don’t chat, bad at it. I may have given the impression I am an isolationist; I’m not. I am a member of a worldwide organization that meets regularly, not the whole world, mind, just in small groups here and there. I go to church. Socializing just hasn’t been a big draw for me, or maybe I’m in denial.
    Again, well-written piece; you’ll be a great success and influence. Heck, you already are. God speed.

  • @rumitoid, that makes total sense! Yeah, I kinda have a similar style. Not the most social butterfly, but I love people. And thanks for the compliment. Made my night.