How Can the Church Face the Loneliness Epidemic?
Despite the prevalence of social networks and the constant ability to text or call our friends, a new report suggests that Americans are more isolated and lonely then ever. More than ever we may be able to interact with others, but it seems we can’t actually connect with each other.
“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, who authored the study.
This isn’t the first study to suggest this, but it does show the situation appears to be getting worse. There are also numerous studies that show just how damaging isolation and loneliness can be to mental health. Patheos writer Karen Spears Zacharias points out prisoners put into isolation for long periods show depression, despair, rage, impulse control problems, and an impaired ability to think or concentrate.
Loneliness is also bad for physical health. People who report being lonely are more susceptible to chronic inflammation, which can lead to heart problems. It also makes one at a higher risk for dementia according to a Dutch study cited in The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, & Psychiatry.
According to the report, loneliness is double what it was ten years ago. For any other condition, this would be considered a pandemic, but few consider loneliness an actual health issue. It seems the only solution would be a cultural one, which Kinnaman suggests opens great opportunity to the church.
“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,” he concluded. “The Church, when functioning properly, can address the rising epidemic of loneliness.”