I read a sobering news account last week. We are a nation of lonely people. Beyond that, loneliness is linked to serious health problems like depression, sleep disorders and chronic pain, among others. The World Health Organization ranks loneliness as carrying a higher health risk than smoking and as great a risk as obesity (with its attendant risks of diabetes and heart disease).
Isn’t that astounding?
I already knew a bit about the opposite side of that loneliness coin. I’ve seen research that shows friendships and social networks can lead to healthier diets, more exercise and better sleep habits; that strong social ties promote brain health as you age. Research even shows that friendships provide a greater positive impact in your life than do family ties.
Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter: whoever finds one has found a treasure. Faithful friends are beyond price; no amount can balance their worth. Faithful friends are life-saving medicine; and those who fear the Lord will find them. (Sirach 6:14-16)
So if loneliness is bad for your health, what is its cure? As a participant in Women of the ELCA, I’m quick to answer with “living in community.” Lutheran women find their friends and build social networks through Women of the ELCA. Whether we participate in a traditional circle, a Café group or a book club, the connections we make there contribute to our emotional, spiritual and physical health.
Now that is good news! How often is something good for you that you actually enjoy?
We know that healthy women can produce healthy families, churches and communities, and can develop healthy, more just and more holistic societies. So, go out there today and make a friend. You’ll be helping you and that new friend lead a healthier life.