“Loneliness Epidemic” in America is Not an Epidemic, New Study Shows
According to a new study, the “significant problem” of loneliness in the United States is not as pronounced as some claim. Being part of a religious community and interacting regularly with neighbors are associated with lower levels of loneliness.
The American Enterprise Institute has released its Survey on Community and Society (SCS) based on data collected from 2,411 Americans between the ages of 18-70 in the summer of 2018.
According to the SCS, the loneliness epidemic that some have claimed exists in America is overblown. The results offer a more nuanced view of loneliness in the U.S. as compared to other recent studies diagnosing America with a “loneliness epidemic.”
Although about one-third of Americans say that they are lonely some of the time (and 10% say they are often lonely), of this demographic, about 75% say they still have at least one person to whom they feel close and can rely upon.
One can feel lonely and also have people to rely on in times of need, the researchers state: Nearly three-quarters of people who report feeling lonely say they have people to whom they feel close.
“For instance, of the 33% of Americans who say they are lonely sometimes or often, 73% say they have people in their lives to whom they feel close. Of the 39% who feel isolated from others, 61% say they have a lot in common with those around them,” the report says.
Here are some other figures:
73% of Americans feel satisfied with the state of their local communities compared with only 43% who feel the same way about the state of the country;
75% of people say they derive a sense of community from their city and 71% say they get it from their neighborhood;
64% claim to derive community from those who share their political beliefs and only 58% say they find community in those who share their ethnic background.
The good news is that 8 in 10 Americans “still trust in the goodness of their communities, believe in the American dream, and prioritize family and freedom over materialism.”
“Most Americans think their communities are faring well and that the American dream is within reach. Friends and neighborhoods are more prevalent sources of community for Americans than ethnic and ideological identities are. More people regard freedom and family as essential elements of the American dream than becoming wealthy or owning a home,” the study reports.
The study concluded those who belong to religious organizations report they do not feel lonely as often as those who do not associate with any religious group. Of these, the study found that 78% of people in a church community are “socially connected,” compared to the 64% of non-members who fit in the same category.
37% of religious people say they never feel isolated from others, compared to 25% of those for whom faith is not important.
“Regular human interaction, whether formally through volunteering or informally through talking with neighbors, has numerous positive benefits. People who regularly attend worship services and participate in activities at a house of worship are less likely to be lonely than those who are not religious. The more often people talk with their neighbors, the less likely they are to feel lonely and more likely they are to help each other out. Finding ways to engage people in the lives of others is a net benefit to society,” the study says.
“When asked if they feel completely alone, 46% of religious respondents say ‘never,’ compared with 38% of those for whom religious faith is not important.”
Last year, health service company Cigna claimed 46% of Americans sometimes or always feel alone and that there was “loneliness at epidemic levels” across the nation.