The Economist recently wrote of a quiet pandemic that’s been developing while most people’s attention has been on Covid-19: loneliness.
It’s a problem that’s been around for a while, but the pandemic has made it much more noticeable. The elderly have been particularly vulnerable, especially if they live alone or in a nursing home environment. Others have struggled, too, from those who live alone to those who have been working from home since Covid began.
And loneliness doesn’t discriminate, of course, especially as schools remain closed, sports severely restricted, and kids’ surging use of technology in isolated settings.
The lack of social engagement has taken a toll. Loneliness is said to be as bad for a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and twice as deadly as obesity.
“Where there is severe loneliness, there is likely also to be dementia, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression,” and can have a “devastating effect on mental health.”
Researchers tell us that the trend has been noticeable for decades.
The relatively recent trend towards mass urbanization has been a major culprit, as has the rise of technology, the growth of Gig-economy jobs, open office plans (most retreat with noise-cancelling headphones), the relative decline in communal activities (churches, civic clubs, bowling and softball leagues, etc), and the rapid growth of social media.
It’s worrisome, no doubt. So what do we do about it?
I don’t have the answer, of course. I’m not sure anyone does at this point, except pharmaceutical companies who will be more than pleased to sell you one of their products.
Two things are worth mentioning:
- In Rowan County, between 300-500 people will be receiving their second vaccinations every week for at least the next month. What that means is that people — especially the elderly — will be more and more likely to emerge from their 11-month hibernation. There won’t be a magical “on” switch , but folks will be increasingly eager to reengage with activities they loved prior to Covid, including the church. Will we return to pre-Covid numbers? Who knows, but I’m certain those who do return will have a much better appreciation for the pure joy of community — which is at the heart of who we are.
- If you are struggling with loneliness and/or isolation, you may find that our new counseling ministry provides great, safe space to talk through your concerns. Lauren Stevenson is a member of St. John’s and a professional counselor at Catawba College. We have contracted with her to provide counseling ministry during these most challenging times. Individual counseling is available on Mondays. She will host a grief group in the summer. Check out our website for more information.
The bottom line is that you don’t have to walk this journey alone. We’re eager to walk right alongside you.
Our very best to you this month. It’s sooo cold out … but by the next time I write this pastor’s letter, spring will be at our doorstep. I can hardly wait!
With great anticipation and thanksgiving,