The loneliness epidemic (Week 2)

March 7, 2019

The Counseling Corner

By Rev. Judith T. Lester, B.Min. M.Th

“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.” – Psalm 25:6

Loneliness has been around since the time of human existence; however, lately research has soured on the issue of loneliness and thus has increased the attention on this subject. Let’s first get some sense of the magnitude of the loneliness epidemic, then conclude with the peak time periods for loneliness.

In a May 2018 U.S. News and World Report article reported that health insurer CIGNA found on the US Loneliness Index 46 percent of Americans report feeling lonely sometimes or always and 47 percent, report feeling left out sometimes or always. A little less, 43 percent report feeling isolated from others, and the same number report feeling they lack companionship and their relationships lack meaning. CIGNA calls those “epidemic levels.” There are certain symptoms identified by experts regarding loneliness.

The symptoms of loneliness

In the book, #Loneliness: The Virus of the Modern Age Selmi reported, when polled as part of a 1984 questionnaire, respondents most frequently reported having three close confidants. When the question was asked again in 2004, the most common response was zero confidants. Imagine the figures if this research was conducted today. This trend is unfortunate, since experts believe that it is not the quantity of social interaction that combats loneliness, but it is the quality of human connection. In other words, having thousands of friends on Facebook won’t cut it, but having just 3 or 4 close friends is enough to ward off loneliness and reduce the negative health consequences associated with this state of mind. (#Loneliness: The Virus of the Modern Age, Tony J. Selmi, Balboa Press, Jan. 2016).

Peak time periods for loneliness

Another U.S. News and World Report entitled: “3 in 4 Americans Struggle with Loneliness” (Dec. 2018) identified 3 peak time periods for loneliness according to Jeste and his colleagues using a 20-point loneliness scale developed at the University of California (UCLA).

The late 20s when people are making choices that will affect the rest of their lives, such as their career, their choice of a life partner and where they will settle. This can really be a lonely time especially when one begins comparing themselves to others and begins feeling they aren’t doing as well as their peers.

The mid-50s is a time when people are experiencing the mid-life crisis as signs of aging highlight the fact that their time on earth is limited. They see some of their friends dying and sometimes family members and they become aware more so of their own mortality.

The late 80s is a peak time period as it is a time of increased helplessness. Half of people at this age have dementia and their physical abilities are in decline. Often, they have lost their spouse and don’t have many people left around, either family or friends.

Beloved, the U.S. News and World Report article went on to say additional factors that affect feelings of loneliness include time spent with family, sleep, employment and physical activity. Respondents who say they spend the right amount of time with their families, are well-rested, don’t feel overworked and get enough physical activity have lower loneliness scores. The bottom line is there are many lonely souls right in our midst. Pray for opportunities to reach out to the lonely souls in your corner of the world in an effort to lessen the burden of loneliness and thus assist in stemming the tide on the loneliness epidemic.

Next Week: Continuation

General Disclaimer: The writer has used her best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered. Neither the publisher nor the writer shall be liable in any way for readers’ efforts to apply, rely or utilize the information or recommendations presented herein as they may not be suitable for you or necessarily appropriate for every situation to which they may refer. This information is for educational purposes only. If you would like to contact Rev. Lester, write to her c/o P.O. Box 121, Brookfield, WI. 53008.