Posts tagged ‘Alone’

The Deadliness of Loneliness

Loneliness is killing us – literally.  This is what a lengthy article in the National Post argues:

Studies suggest loneliness is more detrimental to health than obesity, physical inactivity or polluted air. Chronic loneliness, and not the transient kind that comes with a significant life disruption, such as moving cities for work, or the death of a partner, has been linked with an increased risk of developing or dying from coronary artery disease, stroke, elevated blood pressure, dementia and depressed immunity.

 A study published in May found lonely people have shorter telomeres, which are found at the end of chromosomes, like the tip of a shoelace. Telomeres get shorter every time a cell divides, and shorter telomeres are considered a sign of accelerated aging.

This is serious stuff.  So, what is the solution?  Some are arguing that the solution may be pharmacological:

Studies in animals suggest that a single injection of pregnenolone can reduce or “normalize” an exaggerated threat response in socially isolated lab mice, similar to the kind of hyper vigilance lonely people feel that makes them poor at reading other people’s intentions and feelings.

 The researchers have every hope the drug will work in lonely human brains, too…

 Loneliness increases both a desire to connect with others, and a gut instinct for self-preservation (“if I let you get close to me, you’ll only hurt me, too”). People become more wary, cautious and self-centered.  The idea is to help people see things as they are, “rather than being afraid of everyone,” [neuroscientist Stephanie] Cacioppo said.

This is all very interesting.  But I’m not sure that masking a problem medicinally is going to cure an ill socially.  The problem is not just that many of us are lonely – although that certainly is concerning.  The deeper problem, though, is that many of us are, quite literally, alone:

“Nearly 30 million Americans live alone, many not out of preference,” said Christophe Lane, author of Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness. In Canada, the proportion of the population living in one-person households has quadrupled over the past three generations in Canada to 28 percent in 2016, from seven percent in 1951.

 Life expectancy is growing, fertility rates are falling and the population is aging. We’re marrying later and having fewer children, if any at all. Technology means we can do almost all we need to do from home without physically interacting with a single human soul.

Solutions to problems like these cannot be solved by a pill. They can only be solved by other people.

“It is not good for the man to be alone,” God once said of the first man He had created (Genesis 2:18). So, God made for him a companion in Eve. And He’s been making companions ever since. We are called both to find companions and to be a companion. We simply cannot live – at least not well – any other way.

Community is critical for so many things. It is critical to hold us accountable in sin. It is critical to encourage us in dark times. It is critical to celebrate with us good times. It is critical to help us in tough times. There are too many things in life that we simply cannot face alone.

A feeling of loneliness may be able to be helped along by picking up a prescription. A state of aloneness, however, can only be solved by reaching out to another person. So, reach out and help wipe out aloneness. Together, we’re better.

August 26, 2019 at 5:15 am 3 comments

ABC Extra – The Danger of Loneliness

Loneliness is epidemic.  An old Gallup poll from 1990 found that 36% of Americans report feeling lonely.  And yet, study after study has shown that the feeling of loneliness and physical isolation are not always interconnected.   Three social scientists from the University of Chicago, the University of California, and Harvard University recently conducted a study which noted that there is a “discrepancy between an individual’s loneliness and the number of connections in a social network.”  These researchers concluded that loneliness is, at least in part, contagious.  They point to a 1965 study by Harry Harlow on rhesus monkeys.  Harlow noted that when an isolated monkey was reintroduced into a colony of monkeys, the monkey was driven away from the community.  The researchers then noted, “Humans may similarly drive away lonely members of their species…Feeling socially isolated can lead to one becoming objectively isolated.”  The idea, then, is this:  Subjectively feeling alone leads to objectively being alone.  But this is not a good thing.  Indeed, the researchers open their study with this sobering statement:  “Social species do not fare well when forced to live solitary lives.”

What three social scientists spent many years and thousands of dollars to study and discover, the Bible already knew.  From the very beginning of creation, immediately after God created the first human being, Adam, God knew, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).  As I mentioned in ABC, in a twist of cross-phonological irony, the Hebrew word for “alone” is bad.  And when this word is applied to human beings, this is indeed the case.  It is bad for a human being to be alone.   And yet, at least at first glance, the case seems to be somewhat different with God.

“You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship You” (Nehemiah 9:6).  “God alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8). “I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by Myself” (Isaiah 44:24).  In each of these instances, the Hebrew word for “alone” is bad.  And it is used, quite proudly I might add, of God.  But when this word is used with regard to God, it is not so much used to describe God’s isolation as it is used to describe God’s uniqueness.  It is God alone who created the earth and can use His creation as He desires.  No one else has this privilege and prerogative.  God is unique, but He is not isolated.  Indeed, God’s very Trinitarian nature is evidence that He is not alone in the reclusivist sense, for He is in perfect communion with Himself.

As a reflection of the communion that God has within Himself, He had designed us to have communion with other people.  For a human being to live life alone is indeed bad – in the English sense.  This leads us, then, to some questions.  Do we have deep, meaningful relationships where we know others and are known by others?  If you are married, is your marriage strong and is your spouse you first and finest earthly companion, or are you merely two individuals who happen to be living in the same house?  For those who do suffer from loneliness, do you seek to befriend others in Jesus’ name?

God is not alone.  And we should not be alone either.  This is why Jesus’ final promise was not one of isolation, but of presence:  “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).  In Christ, we are never alone.  And that’s a good thing.

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May 16, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

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