Facts About Loneliness
Everyone likes to be alone; no one likes to be lonely.
Being alone is fine. We need time by ourselves.
Being lonely is not fine. We are made to be social.
Large portions of Americans are disconnected from normal connecting institutions. And many report chronic loneliness. Social media is generally hurting more than helping loneliness. But COVID-19 has not made a big difference.
For several reasons, loneliness is a particular problem for men.
Loneliness is the sorrowful feeling of having become disconnected from others when a connection is felt to be needed. To use standard definition, loneliness occurs when the quantity and quality of connections we have is less than we want. [Source.] It is commonly accompanied by despair and anger. More on definitions of feelings.
People can be lonely in different ways. “Social loneliness refers to longing for an absent social network, whereas emotional loneliness refers to longing for an absent intimate, close, and emotional attachment (Weiss, 1973).” [Source] Knowing which a person is feeling can help know how to help them.
Meaningful connection is also a biological need.
Loneliness is terrible for your physical health, worse than obesity. [Holt-Lunstad, 2010]
Loneliness is likely to increase your risk of death by 26% (Holt-Lunstad, 2015).
Loneliness is worse for you than obesity. (Holt-Lunstad, 2010)
From my experience as a pastor, many people have odd and unrealistic expectations ideas about friendship.
People don’t know how to be alone in a healthy way. Learn more in Digital Minimalism.
People are looking for connection in other people that only God can provide. Ironically, this makes you “needy” which is a big turn off to potential friends.
Things that can help 👍
Measure loneliness in yourself or others then take appropriate steps.
Learn about loneliness cycle and how to break it.
Learn 10 ideas to combat loneliness and some more ideas and a few more.
Learn about how to develop friendships and what we know from social science
Learn how to cultivate (or not) different kinds of relationships. John Townsend offers some helpful categories in which to think about friendships and other relationships. Townsend talks about coaches, comrades, casuals, colleagues, care(-fors), chronics, and contaminants.
Kevin Vost on the historic understanding of friendship, especially by Medieval theologians [subscription needed and worth it]
Other good articles and books
How many friends do we really need to be happy?
People Fuel: Fill Your Tank for Life, Love, and Leadership by John Townsend
The Biggest Threat Facing Middle Age Men Isn’t Smoking or Obesity. It’s Loneliness
How to Nurture Real Friendships that Grow and Thrive
Navigating Frienship in the Local Church
Are Short-term Friendships Worth the Investment