On last week’s Freakonomics Radio podcast, host Stephen Dubner tackled the question, “Is There Really a ‘Loneliness Epidemic’?”. From the transcript of the podcast:
CBS This Morning: A condition that is so common, you actually may not think of it as a mental health problem.
ABC Action News: Loneliness. That’s right, loneliness.
Vivek MURTHY: People who struggle with loneliness end up living shorter lives, and they also are at an increased risk for heart disease, depression, dementia, anxiety, and a host of other conditions.
Murthy is the author of a forthcoming book about loneliness; it’s called Together.
MURTHY: Well, if you had told me several years ago that I would be talking about and thinking about loneliness, I would have said you were probably wrong.
When he was surgeon general, Murthy met with many people suffering from chronic illness and addiction.
MURTHY: But I found that behind many of those stories were stories of a deeper emotional pain. And that pain was often manifest as loneliness. And I realized that there’s something very important happening here, which is that people all across the world are experiencing a sense of disconnection from the people in their community, from the more abstract society that they’re supposedly part of. I became curious about why that was, about what its consequences were for their health.
I encourage you to listen to the whole podcast here. While there are times when feeling lonely can be beneficial, most people are not cut out to be cut off from others. It can lead to anxiety, depression, and even paranoia.
I know personally while I relish “alone time,” I feel downright depressed when actually lonely. I felt pretty dang lonely yesterday while sitting in the busy cafe of a Barnes & Noble. There were plenty of people sipping tea or coffee, nibbling on bagels, or flipping through magazines they had no intention of actually purchasing (duh, there are always those folks letting their venti iced beverages leave wrinkly condensation rings and oily fingerprints on Catster or Golf Digest, only to leave them right on those little wooden tables next to crumbs and used napkins). But I felt so lonely that I immediately whipped out my cell and called my girl Nicole. Texting wouldn’t even suffice; I wanted, no, I needed, to talk and to listen and to be heard.
Galatians 6:2 reminds us to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ“. We must reach out to each other. With life being so busy (work, laundry, spouses, school, family, or maybe even Catster, if that’s your jam), we often have zero clue what’s going on with others. Philippians 2:4 says, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Go ahead, call, FaceTime, text, WhatsApp, or whathaveyou. You may just make someone’s day. And then you scroll up and click that link for all the up-to-date news on kitties you can handle.