The Loneliness Epidemic

Cigna conducted a national survey of 20,000 adults. The survey revealed some startling truths about loneliness:

  • 54% say they feel lonely.
  • 56% said the people with whom they interact “are not necessarily with them”.
  • 40% said they feel “isolated”.[i]

Douglas Nemecek, Cigna’s chief medical officer for behavioral health, said, “Loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity.”

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy said, “During my years caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes; it was loneliness…Loneliness is a growing epidemic. We live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization, yet rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980s.”[ii]

In fact the Prime Minister of the U.K. feels so strongly about this problem that she appointed the U.K.’s first Minister for Loneliness. Prime Minister May said, “For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life. I want to confront this challenge for our society…”[iii]

Are you one of those people who would say, “I feel lonely, isolated, disconnected”?

Probably the most frightening vice in which we find ourselves is loneliness. We feel depressed, hopeless, abandoned, unloved, unappreciated, worthless, and worst of all, stuck. It feels as though we’re fighting a losing battle.

You are certain that life isn’t supposed to be this way, and as a believer you just keep telling yourself that you have God, and that’s enough, but deep down you know that isn’t true.

Over the next few weeks, I want to share what I have found to be some common misconceptions of loneliness and how to combat them. My prayer is that the exposure of these misconceptions will help some of you begin taking the steps to fight this seemingly hopeless battle.

The basis for my writings will be from Genesis 2:18, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone…’” What a fascinating verse with incredible implications (which we will delve into later), but notice it is the only time you see “not good” before The Fall.

I am certainly not an expert on loneliness. I haven’t done years of research to study the topic, but I have faced (and at times still do face) this powerful force. It has often pulled me down and attempted to drown me in its relentless fight. There have been particularly low points in my life when the loneliness was so real I could almost see its intangible form; I could almost hear it whispering lies into my heart and mind. Those were dark times that felt so hopeless; times I knew that God had forsaken me, and I would rot away into oblivion without ever being missed.

These times of darkness opened my eyes to the need of good relationships/ friendships. Even those who are married need good friends that go beyond the spousal relationship. We unfairly put a massive load on the shoulders of our spouses when we expect them to meet all of our emotional and psychological needs. I thank God for a wife who supported me during my darkest times, but I realize in retrospect that I unfairly expected her to be the sole barer of my burdens. What’s worse is she was facing loneliness herself, but I was so fixated on my own battles that I did not perceive hers.

Statistically, half the people who are reading this blog feel lonely. Maybe you’re one of them. Please hear my plea; don’t give up. There is hope beyond your loneliness. Let me suggest some excellent resources:

The necessity of human relationships cannot be over-emphasized. Unfortunately, evangelicals have bought into the misconceptions surrounding loneliness and have heralded them as biblical. In later posts I will address some of those misconceptions and how to combat them. Until then, I strongly urge you to look at the resources listed above. Even if you are not one of the 54% who feel lonely, these resources will help you understand the biblical teaching on the importance of human relationships.

I would love to hear your comments, and you have no idea how helpful it is to others when you share your experience. One of the lies we believe about our loneliness is that we’re the only ones facing it. Sharing your experience may well be the balm that begins the healing process for someone reading this post. So, if you’re willing, please share your thoughts.  Until next time, God bless you in your journey of growth.

[i] http://amp.timeinc.net/fortune/2018/05/01/americans-lonely-cigna-study

[ii] https://www.webmd.com/balance/news/20180504/loneliness-rivals-obesity-smoking-as-health-risk

[iii] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/17/world/europe/uk-britain-loneliness.html

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