In 2018, Cigna, a global health service company, released the results of a national study they conducted which explored the impact of loneliness in the United States. They surveyed more than 20,000 US adults age 18 and older. Here are just some of their findings:
· Nearly 1/2 of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone (46 percent) or left out (47%).
· One in four Americans (27%) rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them.
· Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful (43%) and are isolated from others (43%).
One in 5 people report they rarely or never feel close to people (20 percent) or feel like there are people they can talk to (18 percent).
By Pat Hammond
On February 12, 2019, Ann Henkin, Jana Phelps, and I presented a seminar on loneliness to 78 Stephen Ministers to Sioux Falls churches. Ann and I joined Lori Walsh on her SDPB radio show In the Moment the following day, where we again talked about loneliness.
Most of us have felt lonely at some time or another in our life. When we leave home for the first time, move to a new city, a new job, new people, we might have a feeling of loneliness. When our kids move out of the house for the first time, we might experience feelings of “empty nest” and this could bring up loneliness, or when we downsize and move or retire. These are all times of transition which are normal and are considered “mild” loneliness.
The type of loneliness Ann, Jana, and I want to raise up are levels of loneliness that could be considered moderate to high levels of loneliness. These feelings arise when we have no daily interactions with anyone, no one-on-one conversations.
How can the church respond to loneliness? God created us to be social beings, we are relational beings. Jesus was always in relationships. Jesus was born into a family, he started his earthly ministry by gathering people to follow him. He enjoyed his friends and they shared meals together and prayed together. Even with his last breath, he instructed his friends to take care of his mother. Relationships were essential to Jesus. They should be for us too, as we were created for community. Let’s continue this conversation over a cup of coffee or cup of tea. Let’s start there.
On this journey with you! Pastor Pat
Pat is the Associate Pastor for Congregational Care at First Presbyterian Church of Sioux Falls. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.