The Loneliness Epidemic

The Loneliness Epidemic August 6, 2013

Raise your hand if you remember this song from your youth:

It could be argued now, I suppose, that The Beatles were more than just poets – they were a prophetic bunch.

I can’t speak for the Brits, but here in America we are facing a full-blown Loneliness Epidemic.

A recent report from the Barna Group reveals that despite all our ability to connect technologically, Americans are more isolated, and more lonely than ever.

“As a nation, we are embracing the digital revolution and, ironically, we are becoming a lonelier population. While there are many benefits of being participants in possibly the most relationally connected age in human history, the social media revolution has not made us feel more connected, less lonely, or replete with friends,” reports David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group.

While the CDC may not be issuing red-alerts over the health dangers of loneliness just yet, there is plenty of research revealing the inherent dangers of loneliness.

Not surprisingly, prisoners put in isolation for long periods of time show signs of depression, despair, rage, problems with impulse control, and an impaired ability to think, concentrate or remember.

Those symptoms read like an indictment on present-day culture in the good ole U. S. of A.

In her 1959 essay “On Loneliness”, German psychiatrist Frieda Fromm-Reichmann defined real loneliness as a “lack of intimacy.”

In other words, you may have 3,500 friend on Facebook, but when is the last time you sat down across a table from someone and told them how much your heart hurts?

When is the last time you told someone how much you were hurting that they actually listened to you, without scrolling through their own Facebook page?

People who are lonely are more susceptible to chronic inflammation, which leads to all sorts of health problems, including heart disease and diabetes. Loneliness also makes one susceptible to a marked increase in dementia. A Dutch study cited in The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry found that participants who reported feeling lonely — regardless of how many friends and family surrounded them — were more likely to develop dementia than those who lived on their own but were not lonely.

The loneliness of Americans has doubled in the past ten years, according to the Barna report. Can you think of one other disorder or disease that would doubled in that short time and not be considered an epidemic?

Is it because we don’t have time for friendships?

Barna’s report would indicate otherwise. Only a third of Americans reported being busy as opposed to the half that said they were busy a decade ago. (Maybe the unemployment rate has something to contribute to Americans being less busy, heh?)

All of this is really an opportunity for the Church to step up and change the trend in culture, Kinnaman suggests.

“Finally, the research points to many opportunities for the Christian community—the original social network—to provide genuine responses to the needs of today’s culture,” Kinnaman concludes. “The Church, when functioning properly, can address the rising epidemic of loneliness.”

Of course, the younger population – the ones fleeing the church in droves – might say they view the church as a place of isolation and loneliness. A place where they feel most cut off from humanity.

What are we going to do about that?











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