There has been a lot in the news recently about loneliness.
One in 10 Britons often feel lonely, and those aged 18-34 are more likely to worry about being isolated than older adults, according to a Mental Health Foundation report.
Four in 10 have been depressed because of loneliness, and 48% believe people are becoming lonelier.
While 17% of over-55s worry about being alone, 36% of under-35s do.
The elderly, jobless and those who are disabled are most likely to be affected.
Persistent loneliness is bad for people’s mental and physical health and can be linked to stress, heavy drinking and poor diet, says the charity.
Peter Byrne, associate registrar of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “Our stereotype of the older person, home alone … is challenged by information [showing] the number of children calling a helpline who are lonely has increased by 60% in five years.”
I find myself interested for several different reasons-
I work in a mental health setting, and the role of community and social support is being ever more recognised as both cause and potential recovery of mental ill health.
I am interested in the role of social networking (and other on line health and social care platforms) in supporting us- and have a strong feeling that our reliance on the web is contributing to the isolation of many people. The stats above for example suggest that loneliness is especially concerning in the ‘facebook generation’- who might have three hundred on line friends, but no-one to go to the pictures with at the weekend.
This is a recurrent theme on this blog- here for example.
It is also a key theme for our Greenbelt worship event this year.
Here is the question- if the statistics suggesting that loneliness, isolation and disconnectedness are increasingly defining characteristics of our society- then what should be the role of we, the agents of the Kingdom of the living (relational) God?
Who made us in a way to be at our best when we love and serve one another?
As we seek to serve those around us, how might we need to structure our activities to better shine light and sprinkle salt to bring out the good flavours of the societies we serve?
It used to be the strength of our institutions of faith- the way we brought together and unified our communities (sometimes for ill as well as good.) We birthed a thousand community groups- womens groups, mens groups, kids groups. And we served our communities at points of crisis and celebration in a way that marked and deepened our understandings of transitions.
We still do many of those things- but perhaps we need to think outside of the boxes in which we currently work within. There is great need out there…