Nearly half of all American adults, especially young ones, struggle with devastating loneliness. Social isolation and feeling disconnected with others is an extreme form of stress, a major health hazard contributing heavily to deaths from heart disease, cancer and other issues.
In fact, research shows loneliness is as harmful to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day (most packs contain 20).
A new survey of more than 20,000 Americans over age 18 reveals most adults are considered lonely.
46% feel alone
47% feel left out
43% say their relationships are not meaningful
43% are isolated from others
20% rarely or never feel close to people
18% feel like there is no one they can talk to
53% have quality time with others on a daily basis
The survey found Generation Z, which includes adults ages 18-22, is the loneliest generation.
When it comes to living arrangements, single parents who live with children are the loneliest, followed by people who live by themselves. Americans who live with a spouse are the least likely to report loneliness.
Licensed family therapist Dr. Linda Mintle told CBN News loneliness is contrary to God's plan for our lives. "Our brains are made to be in connection with other people. We are wired that way, the way God designed us."
Dr. Mintle says when faith and God are removed from society, loneliness ensues.
"I do believe this is the one of the reasons why people are lonelier today. There's no moral compass, nothing connecting people. And the faith perspective that we have says, 'serve other people, be with other people, do for other people, get connected to other people.'"
However, Dr. Mintle points out that even in Christian environments, such as within large churches, loneliness can be a problem, so she says we need to make an effort to get involved. "You have to get in a small group. You have to find a niche in that church," she said. "You need to be pro-active."
"People are very busy with their lives," she continued. "They don't invite you over like they used to do back in the day. You can know people, but you have to figure out ways to get in community."
Dr. Mintle said the fact that so many young people feel lonely means 'Gen Zers' need to give up social media relationships and go for the real thing instead.
"They need to be real-time, face-to-face, intimate," she said. "There are so many studies that show the support, the community you get from being in a relationship with other people sustains you in so many ways," adding, "They need to be more than the superficial ones that we often have online."
Dr. Mintle encourages parents to spend quality time with their children and try to help them develop a healthy social life. "Kids who are lonely and shy and don't have friends at school don't do well," she said. "They have mental health issues and problems. So from the very young to the very old, connection is the thing."
Dr. Mintle says in addition to church groups, people "can fellowship with other people" by bonding over "shared interests" through things like art classes, exercise groups and book clubs. "A lot of times if you have young children, with their activities, you can engage with other parents."
Senior citizens sometimes have mobility issues that keep them in their homes. Mintle said although many older people want to remain in their homes, doing so can cause isolation, loneliness and depression. Sometimes for these people, living in a retirement community is a better choice.
"My dad, since my mom died, has been in a retirement community," she explained, "and he has to go three times a day to be with people at meals, they have activities you can join in. I think that's one of the reasons he's still here at 97."