An Epidemic of Loneliness
This is for All the Lonely People
Ahhh, look at all the lonely people. Where do they all come from? Well, the loneliest people in the world today live in America, Australia, Sweden, Britain, Canada, and Japan. Could it be because of dangerously low birth rates? Might fractured families be to blame?
Americans have half as many children today compared to when I was born. And we are nine times more likely to report being lonely.
One-third of Americans over age 60 experience frequent, intense loneliness. It is worse for those in their 40s, with 43% feeling lonely. Among Millennials, 30% always or often feel isolated, and a disturbing 22% say they have no friends. Zero. But the most desolate of all are those in 'Generation Z,' under 24 years old.
Loneliness and social isolation could increase an individual's risk of premature death by 50 percent, which is higher than the risk from smoking or obesity.
All By Myself, I Don't Want To Be
The New York Times reports, "4,000 'lonely deaths' a week in Japan. Each year, some of Japan's elderly died without anyone knowing, only to be discovered after their neighbors caught the smell. The extreme isolation of elderly Japanese is so common that an entire industry has emerged around it, specializing in cleaning out apartments where decomposing remains are found."
“Loneliness is becoming a common phenomenon in France,” Le Figaro reports. The article names the prime driver of this loneliness to be “family rupture,” especially divorce.
One-half of Swedes now live in households of one. As one story put it, "A man is alone in his flat. He has been lying there dead for three weeks—people only noticing his demise when an awful smell appeared in the communal hallways. The man has no close relatives or friends. He lived lonely and alone for years, sitting solitary in front of his TV or computer. He has a daughter, but she proves impossible to locate. He had quite a lot of money tucked away in the bank. He had no one to share with."
A Der Spiegel article entitled, 'Alone by the Millions: Isolation Crisis Threatens German Seniors,’ declares, "Over 20 percent of Germans over the age of 70 are in regular contact with only one person—or nobody. Many older people have no one who still addresses them by their first name or asks them how they are doing. Without doubt, what unites these tragic portraits is the sexual revolution, driving up divorce rates, driving down marriage rates, and emptying cradles. Hardly anyone visits the elderly women anymore suffering from extreme loneliness, who didn’t want any children when they were young.”
Lonely People are not Happy
In Britain, a story in the Sun reveals that a new, nationwide survey shows a stunning 89% of those aged 16 to 29 say their lives lack meaning and purpose. Nihilism is running rampant among them.
The education system has taught that generation that life means nothing more than whatever any individual says it does, which ultimately comes to mean nothing. A culture that abandons any objective truth, as John Stonestreet of BreakPoint tells us, "and instead tells its young people that truth, purpose, meaning, and morality are purely subjective, will only, in the end, rob them of any truth, purpose, meaning, or morality."
Christianity supplied a sense of meaning, purpose, morality, and truth for centuries in Western Civilization. However, in Britain, a record low 38% are Christians, and for those under 24-years-old, it drops to a shocking 1%. The secularizers have done a bang-up job.
Three-quarters of Brits over 60 feel lonely, and half say that have felt that way for many years. Nine million of them “always or often feel lonely.” Two hundred thousand older people in the UK say they have not had a single conversation with a friend or relative in more than one month. The government has created a Minister for Loneliness and is funding initiatives and programs to help lonely people.
As my article The Pursuit of Happiness shows, social science finds that four things produce lasting happiness: Faith, Family, Community, and Vocation. All four have been undermined in the West by 'Progressivism.'
Of Americans adults, nearly half say they “sometimes or always” feel “alone,” or “left out.” About one in four “rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them,” and roughly two in five “sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful,” and that they are “isolated from others.”
Only 53% “have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, on a daily basis.”
That study was done by Cigna Insurance, which sees this as important information because those social interactions, or lack thereof, seem to have enormous consequences on individual health. "We view a person's physical, mental and social health as being entirely connected," said Cigna.
Sad on Campus
College counselors say that in decades past the questions most often asked revolved around how a person should live. Lately, the question has become why should I live?
Hopelessness, meaninglessness, stress, anxiety, alienation, and depression run amok among students. Ten percent of them have been suicidal. One-third has no religious affiliation—and one-third has mental health problems. Could there be a connection there?
Melissa Mackenzie asks in the American Spectator, "How can a country with so much prosperity produce humans that value their blessings so little? We've brought up a generation of people who have everything and feel empty at the same time."
Millennials and Gen Z perceive their own experience as astonishingly bleak. Why are they so sad and angry? Maybe it’s that their lives lack meaning. Nihilism breeds despair. It is meaninglessness in an ocean of prosperity. They cannot fill that God-shaped hole in their hearts with hookups and booze and drugs or social media.
A Society of Sadness
My friend Cherie Harder of the Trinity Forum has summed it up wonderfully: “These are lonely times. By many measures, rates of loneliness in the US have doubled. We are more likely to live alone, to lack confidantes, to feel ourselves abandoned in the world. We report enjoying fewer friendships, particularly close ones. And we increasingly doubt the good faith and motives of those around us, particularly those of different political persuasions.
“The consequences are harsh. The more isolated we feel, the more likely we are to get hurt, sick, addicted, or depressed, and die prematurely. And our very alienation also leaves us less likely to reach out to others, to join groups, to vote, to volunteer, to worship, to make efforts to connect with others – or even see the point of doing so. Those who don't see the point of making an effort will often look for a scapegoat to blame for their frustration – and generally find what they are looking for. The result? Even more, disconnection, fueled by resentment.
“Such angry loneliness is misery for those that suffer from it. But the problems do not end there. In fact, new problems start precisely at the point of convergence of growing public distrust and disconnection. As dangerous as loneliness is for the individual, it can be even more destructive to society.”
No Way Out
James Howard Kunstler states: "This is exactly what you get in a culture where anything goes, and nothing matters. Extract all the meaning and purpose from being here on earth, and erase as many boundaries as you can from custom and behavior, and watch what happens, especially among young men.”
Kunstler describes our boys living in an "abyss of missing social relations" with "no communities, no fathers, no mentors, no initiations into personal responsibility, no daily organizing principles, no instruction in useful trades, no productive activities, no opportunities for love and affection, and no way out."
Suicide rates for young Americans are the highest ever measured. So are drug-related deaths.
Fifty years ago, more than 80% of American adults ages 25 to 34 were married. Today, it is 29%. An enormous number of young Americans are not in any relationship at all.
Alone and Homeless
Besides the epidemic of loneliness and despair, homelessness is also a product of the wildly successful campaign by the Left to destroy normal intimacy, holy matrimony, the family, our schools, universities, and culture.
As Christopher F. Rufo writes in City Journal: “For the past 70 years, sociologists, political scientists, and theologians have documented the slow atomization of society. As family and community bonds weaken, our most vulnerable citizens fall victim to the addiction, mental illness, isolation, poverty, and despair that almost always precipitate the final slide into homelessness.”
Alice Baum and Donald Burnes wrote in their book Nation in Denial: The Truth About Homelessness: “Homelessness is a condition of disengagement from ordinary society—from family, friends, neighborhood, church, and community.
“Poor people who have family ties, teenaged mothers who have support systems, mentally ill individuals who are able to maintain social and family relationships, alcoholics who are still connected to their friends and jobs, even drug addicts who manage to remain part of their community do not become homeless. Homelessness occurs when people no longer have relationships; they have drifted into isolation; without the support networks, they could count on in the past."
Too many Americans are lonely among a sea of strangers, depressed despite marvelous material blessings, and die what has become known as 'deaths of despair.'