In Sam Kim’s excellent book, A Holy Haunting, the author referenced a recent national survey released by Cigna, a global health service company, which asked people 20 questions about loneliness. The survey revealed:
· Nearly half of those surveyed admit they feel alone occasionally or all the time.
· 25% say they rarely or never feel anyone understands them.
· 20% report their relationships are inconsequential and they feel isolated.
· 20% claim they rarely or never feel close to others and do not have anyone with whom they can talk.
As if these do not paint a severe enough picture of loneliness in America, Dr. Douglas Nemecek, the chief medical officer for Cigna said, “Loneliness has the same impact on life expectancy as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, making it even more dangerous than obesity.”
Tragically, the situation is even worse among our young. When the Cigna study was combined with a study on depression from Harvard, two disturbing patterns became obvious: First, Gen Z, those 9 to 24 years old, is the loneliest generation in history. Second, they are also at the highest risk for suicide and self-harm.
Another Harvard study of college age students found:
· 25% of those surveyed admit they sought treatment for, or have been diagnosed with, some form of mental illness in the previous year.
· 20% acknowledge they had suicidal thoughts during the past 12 months.
· 10% admit they had attempted suicide in the last year.
This is not only an issue in the US, however, since several years ago the British discovered 30% of their citizens went at least one day each week without any meaningful conversation with anyone.
While many may consider churches no longer relevant in today’s world, recent research by respected pollster George Barna shows many believe church attendance is well suited to help lonely people. It may be one of the reasons multiple studies show those who attend church actually live longer lives.
I love the way the Apostle Paul challenges churches to help those who are hurting when he writes, “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” (Romans 12:15-16, NLT)
Nearly everyone wants friends who will encourage them when they are sad and who will celebrate with them when they are happy. Allow me to suggest you ask God to help you find a supportive church family. No church is perfect but churches often help people discover meaning and find new friends.