Do you feel lonely or do you know someone who feels lonely? Chances are you can say yes to at least one of those questions, if not both.
What got us thinking about a problem that’s not talked about a lot is that we heard a sermon on loneliness by Pastor Aaron Werner last Sunday. He talked about loneliness and a resurgence in TV programs from the past such as "Friends" and "Cheers."
An excerpt from the theme songs from these programs may give clues as to why. From Friends – “I’ll be there for you; cuz you’re there for me too.” And from Cheers, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.” These lyrics show a need to connect in a deeper way, which cuts down on loneliness.
Loneliness is considered to be an alarming, silent epidemic by many who study this issue. We decided to look up the study on loneliness by Cigna that was mentioned in the sermon. The study involved over 20,000 adults in America. Some of the findings include the following:
- Almost half of Americans report feeling alone or left out.
- One in four Americans rarely or never feels as though there are people who really understand them.
- Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful and that they are isolated.
- Generation Z (adults 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to have worse health than older adults.
- Social media usage alone is not a predictor of loneliness.
The risks to health from loneliness are alarming. In a recent CBS "This Morning" TV piece on loneliness, Dr. Guy Winch, psychologist, stated, “Loneliness is a greater public health risk than obesity and smoking combined.” That statement got our attention!
Loneliness and social isolation have been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, in a webinar by NIHCM (National Institute for Health Care Management), participants said that people who are lonely have a 29 percent increased risk factor of coronary heart disease and a 32 percent increase in having a stroke.
Other problems related to loneliness include: less quality sleep, reduced reasoning and decreased creativity. The likelihood of experiencing anxiety, depression, and suicide increases when a person feels lonely. Loneliness can also negatively impact job satisfaction and workplace productivity.
The rate of loneliness has doubled in the last 50 years in America. Loneliness doesn’t seem to be affected by geographic location, gender, race or ethnicity. So what is causing this epidemic in loneliness?
Research shows that more people are living alone and one in five Americans say they rarely or never feel close to others. A painful loneliness occurs when someone does not feel close to the person they are living with. People can have a lot of friends but loneliness occurs when there is a lack of intimacy.
Only 18 percent of people in this study feel there are people they can communicate with. Helping people to learn to communicate with others and develop skills to have meaningful relationships will help curb loneliness.
Lack of social support contributes to loneliness, so it’s important that people are aware of and use services such as counselors and organizations that encourage socialization through groups or activities such as senior centers, sports teams, hobby clubs or places of worship.
What about you? Are you feeling some loneliness in your life?
Here are some ideas to curb loneliness: You can decide which ways may prove most helpful.
- Face-to-face interactions are better than heavy use of social media.
- Exposure to fresh air and sunshine boosts serotonin levels and improves mood so you may feel more comfortable meeting with others.
- Sharing living space with others encourages socialization and lowers feelings of loneliness.
- Having a pet can give people a reason to connect with the pet and also with other pet owners.
- Don’t work too hard because when people are exhausted, there isn’t much time for relationships to be formed, maintained and nurtured.
- Do what you enjoy but instead of doing it alone, look for other groups of people who are doing it together.
- Spend more quality time with people who are already in your life. You tend to get out of relationships what you put into them. The adage, “If you want to have a friend, be a friend,” is so true.
We encourage you to take action to be more social.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we each made an effort to help curb the alarming, silent epidemic of loneliness so we have an even more caring community where many people will “know your name."