Monday, August 1, 2016
The 21st Century Epidemic
In 2016 TIME posted an online article showcasing the top 10 epidemics in history. From the Black Death to the 1916 Polio Epidemic to SARS, our planet has been plagued by some of the most devastating health crises. However, I believe there is an even greater epidemic that is among us right now. Where the statistics of the lost are not truly known but grow in number by each passing day. I believe that epidemic is loneliness.
The Globe and Mail did an article on September 18, 2015 speaking of loneliness as a crisis that is looming. It said that, "More Canadians than ever live alone, and almost one quarter describe themselves as lonely. In the United States, two studies showed that 40% of people say they're lonely, a figure that has doubled in 30 years."
Britain has even formed a registered charity to bring an end to chronic loneliness. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, said of the lonely, "a forgotten million who live amongst us ignored, to our national shame."
Ami Rokach, a psychologist and lecturer at York University in Toronto, has been researching the subject for more than 3 decades. She said that, "Loneliness has been linked to depression, anxiety, interpersonal hostility, increased vulnerability to health problems, and even suicide." She also noted that, "There is such a stigma about it (loneliness)."
Other articles I have read have made a connection between loneliness and suppressed immune system and cardiovascular function, an increase of stress hormones that our body produces, that it causes wear and tear on a cellular level and impairs sleep. Even going as far to say that loneliness is as bad for your health as smoking or being overweight.
There have been observations that an increasingly self-absorbed society could be to blame for more loneliness, causing a move away from a concern for others. There was even a study conducted by the University of Michigan showing that the use of Facebook increased feelings of loneliness and alienation.
The information I was reading was startling to me until I began to see things from a different perspective, my own. See, I am one of the loneliness statistics. While I don't feel lonely all the time, I have felt loneliness on a level that was almost crippling. A loneliness that I have had to fight through in order to get out of the house and socialize with the outside world. At times it felt impossible to get beyond the crippling effect of my loneliness but I can say that I had and still have help during those times.
My help comes from the relationship I have with God. Even though I am a Christian, I battle the same kinds of things that any other person out there will battle. However, because I chose a relationship with God and have a friend in Jesus, those battles aren't as overwhelming as they used to be. I became a Christian later on in life (just over 9 years ago) so I didn't have the help to get through some really hard times earlier in my life.
Now that I have that help it doesn't mean that I don't struggle but it does mean that I am not alone and, even in my times of loneliness, there is someone greater than me to help me push through the crippling loneliness and find joy in the things and people around me. To get out and socialize if even for a short time to break out of being lonely.
I'm not alone and neither are you in this. I pray for an end to your loneliness as I pray for an end to mine. There is nothing to be ashamed of in saying that you are lonely. I'm officially saying it in my blog, "I'm lonely sometimes and I'm not afraid to say it anymore."
Do you live with loneliness? I think we all do at some point in our lives. Do you find it crippling like I do sometimes? Do you find it impossible to push beyond the loneliness to go out and socialize? I would really like to hear from you. Let's talk.