Cigna, a health insurance agency, recently conducted a survey on the state of loneliness in the United States.
They surveyed 20,000 people, of whom half said they struggle with loneliness. Not only did they say they struggle with feeling alone, but they said they “sometimes or always” feel this way.
Furthermore, the Cigna study found that two of every five people also struggled with feelings of “isolation, a lack of companionship, or a lack of meaning in their relationships.”
NPR published their own analysis of the survey in which they stated they were not surprised about the state of loneliness in the United States.
Not only is loneliness unhealthy for a person mentally, but also physically. As NPR notes, health risks can include “a higher risk of coronary heart disease and stroke,” as well as a decrease in immune system protection, which can delay recovery from severe illnesses like breast cancer. Loneliness can even increase a risk of “premature mortality.”
Historically, the risks involved with chronic loneliness have been associated with elderly people. The high level of lonely youths is a fairly recent epidemic.
The study found that those most affected by loneliness are those born from the mid-1900s to the early 2000s. Not only are they most affected, but they also rank higher than any prior generation on the loneliness scale.
Those who are older than 72 are now the group least affected by loneliness, and place lowest on the scale.
Although Cigna does not address this, prior studies have shown that screen time and social media usage play a large role in the loneliness felt in the younger generations. The constant influx of information causes users to think that they are missing out, which causes feelings of anxiety and loneliness.
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine released a study in March that detailed that those who spend more than two hours a day on social media are two times as likely to experience feelings of loneliness.
“It turns out that the people who reported spending the most time on social media — more than two hours a day — had twice the odds of perceived social isolation than those who said they spent a half hour per day or less on those sites. And people who visited social media platforms most frequently, 58 visits per week or more, had more than three times the odds of perceived social isolation than those who visited fewer than nine times per week,” the study reads.
There is more research that points to social media being the cause of depression, anxiety and even suicide.
NPR notes that this past research shows “people who spend less time looking at screens and more time having face-to-face social interactions are less likely to be depressive or suicidal.”
These findings on loneliness only tell us what we already know as Christians: People need people.
As God says in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for man to be alone.”
God calls us to live in community for a reason! Whether you find this community in your church, small group or bible study, it will help ease the pain that loneliness might bring.
As Christians, we also know that God is our ultimate best friend. When no one else is there to lean on, the Bible tells us that He is our “friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Consider taking some time away from the screen today to focus on real-life interactions, both with people and with God.