“loneliness is at epidemic levels in the U.S., and could rank alongside smoking and obesity as a major threat to public health.”
Earlier this year, market research firm Ipsos conducted a survey of 20,096 U.S. adults, on behalf of health insurer Cigna, in order to find out how lonely we are. The survey was based on the UCLA Loneliness Scale, a 20-item questionnaire designed to assess subjective feelings of loneliness or social isolation. The primary conclusion was that “loneliness is at epidemic levels in the U.S., and could rank alongside smoking and obesity as a major threat to public health.”
Nearly half of Americans report “sometimes or always” feeling alone or left out, not having meaningful relationships, or believing they are isolated from others.
More than a quarter “rarely or never” feel as though there are people who really understand them or believe they have anyone they can talk with. Only half report having daily, meaningful in-person social interactions, such as an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family. Although loneliness is often thought to be associated with aging, this survey found Generation Z (adults aged 18-22) to be the loneliest. Interestingly, social media users turned out to be a little more lonely than people who never use it. One report on this survey concluded by saying “the findings reinforce the social nature of humans and the importance of having face-to-face communities.”
Interestingly, social media users turned out to be a little more lonely than people who never use it.
It won’t surprise you, I suppose, that I believe the church community can be one of the most effective antidotes to loneliness that exists anywhere. The sad truth, however, is that too often it doesn’t work that way. Surveys related to church worship attendance regularly reveal large numbers of people feeling more lonely and isolated, because they perceive church to be a place where everybody else is connected and they aren’t. We might argue that such people should take more responsibility for asserting themselves; but that’s not something any of the rest of us can control. What we can control is our behavior. Instead of spending the bulk of our before and after worship time visiting with people we already know, we can look for people we don’t know and get acquainted with them. Instead of hoping or assuming our lonely neighbors will find their way to church and get connected, we can bring them with us and get them connected. And instead of leaving it at what happens on Sunday mornings, we can work together to create multiple other welcoming and connecting activities and opportunities. This is one epidemic you and I can help to eradicate!
A New Way of Seeing Things
by Rev. Scott Andrews
During a recent Lectionary Bible Study, I noticed how many people around the tables needed glasses. Some wore them all the time, some needed them only to read, and some wear contact lenses. Regardless, in this microcosm of our congregation there was a definite need for corrective lenses (in whatever form).
I recently did some research and found out that 64% of adults in our country utilizes corrective lenses of some form or another, and 20% of children and youth need them as well. I found these statistics rather alarming. I also found out that these percentages have remained steady for several decades. This got me to thinking.