Through the Lens of Loneliness


Through the Lens of Loneliness
Introduction

In Britain today, there are more than nine million people (15 per cent of the population) who say that they often feel lonely.[1] It is projected to get worse as it has been estimated that, by 2030, there will be 7 million lonely people in the over 60 age group alone with a cost to the public finances of nearly £2 billion. Two million of this group may have their lifespans shortened because of the effects of loneliness.[2]

There is the sense of helplessness when a person is in that position. In a survey, 63 per cent of respondents would not know what they would do if they felt lonely, admitted that they were often or always lonely. Meanwhile, 46 per cent of people who say that they would ‘carry on and hope the feeling passes’ if they were feeling lonely admitted that they too were often or always lonely.[3]

The sentiment has been encapsulated by Augusten Burroughs in one of his memoirs: ‘I’m lonely. And I’m lonely in some horribly deep way and for a flash of an instant, I can see how lonely, and how deep this feeling runs.’

It echoes the writing of Nicholas Kristof, who wrote: ‘Loneliness increases inflammation, heart disease, dementia and death rates, researchers say – but it also simply makes us heartsick and leaves us inhabiting an Edvard Munch canvas.’[4]

The Difference between Loneliness and Solitude

It has to be pointed out that there is a difference between being alone and loneliness. Paul Tillich has observed: ‘Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.’

To be alone has a positive outcome as those who have willingly been alone to pray, mediate or retreat will testify. In his sermon on Psalm 62: 1 (‘For God alone my soul waits in silence), Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated: ‘We flee silence. We race from activity to activity to avoid having to be alone with ourselves even for a moment, to avoid having to look at ourselves in the mirror. We are bored with ourselves, and often the most desperate, wasted hours are those we are forced to spend by ourselves.’

Spending time alone in solitude, silence and privacy could be conditions where creativity is produced. Indeed, in The Stations of Solitude, Alice Koller described the situation as following: ‘Being solitary is being alone well. Being alone, luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your own presence rather than the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement.’[5]

Scripture points our direction toward these positive times when we can be with God:
·         ‘In quietness and in trust shall be your strength’ (Isaiah 30: 15)
·         ‘Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him’ (Psalm 37: 7)
·         ‘For God alone my soul waits in silence, from him comes salvation. He alone is my rock and salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken’ (Psalm 62: 1 – 2)
·         ‘For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him’ (Psalm 62: 5)

However, not everyone makes a choice to be by themselves and so often experience those negative emotions that accompany loneliness. There is a helpful definition of loneliness by Jenny de Jong-Giervald as being ‘a situation experienced by the individual as one where there an unpleasant or inadmissible lack of (quality of) certain relationships. This includes situations in which a number of existing relationships is smaller than considered desirable or admissible or situations where the intimacy one wishes for has not been realised. Thus, loneliness is seen to involve the manner in which a person experiences and evaluates his or her isolation and lack of communication with other people.’[6]

It is a malaise of the modern age. As Paul Williams has observed: ‘Our culture is characterised by fragmentation, a loss of cultural memory and a loss of rooted identity. Loneliness is a powerful and growing aspect of experience for many people. Though our culture may be post-truth it is not post-spiritual. There is what Peter Berger has called a ‘de-secularisation’ of the West and a growing spiritual openness.[7][8]

The Effects on Society

It affects all aspects of society, such as:
·         One in three children feel lonely in a week.
·         Eight out of ten carers felt lonely as a result of looking after a loved one.[9]
·         58 per cent of migrants and refugees in London describe loneliness and isolation as their biggest challenge.
·         Almost a quarter of people with disabilities feel lonely on any particular day.[10]

The impact is felt right across society:[11]
·         Parents – Action for Children found 24 per cent of parents were always or often lonely
·         Teenagers – 62 per cent are ‘sometimes lonely’ and one in 20 never spend time with friends at weekends.
·         Carers – 9 out of 10 carers have felt lonely or isolated as a result of looking after a loved one.
·         Refugees and migrants – 58 per cent surveyed in London cited loneliness and isolation as their biggest challenge.
·         The older people – 1 in 3 people over the age of 75 years say that feelings of loneliness are out of their control.
·         People with disabilities – the deafblind charity Sense stated that half of disabled people will be lonely on a given day.

It is a common experience and has been incorporated into many songs, some of which are included in the appendices to this article. Many lonely people take on a shield of defiance in order to protect them from  being hurt , singing along with Simon and Garfunkel  as their anthem, ‘I am a rock, I am an island’. A noticeable example of music identifying the lonely people and how they are feeling is in the lyrics of  ‘Eleanor Rigby’ by Paul McCartney and  John Lennon, where the chorus is:

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they come from?

It can come upon us at any time and in any situation. I remember being in the playground when I was of school age. Boys were playing around me – my friends who were happy for me to join in. Suddenly, I felt alone despite being surrounded by people who liked and wanted to be with me.

This sense of aloneness despite being with friends has persisted with me, even in church situations. I am sure that it is a common experience of people in leadership positions feeling isolated, which certainly the case with me. On a positive note, I am now in a church fellowship where that sense of loneliness is certainly diminished.

Brené Brown, a researcher, has described loneliness as the kind of wound that can ‘break our heart, our spirit and our sense of self-worth.’ It is the deep cut that can send us to explore avenues where we should not go, because we want this fester to heal. It can lead to more extreme sense of loneliness as people end up with loveless marriages, unwanted children because their dependent children have grown up, shallow relationships, and a lifestyle that could potentially kill them or leave them severely disabled or addicted.

It is a problem that is fuelled by living in a narcistic and individualistic society, where we think that the world orbits around us and that other people do not matter. The prevalent consumeristic attitude is that we expect others to meet our needs and, when they fail to do so, we discard them like some rubbish and do not trouble ourselves as to their outcomes. 

Philip Slater described it like this: ‘An enormous technology seems to have set itself the task of making it unnecessary for one human being ever to ask anything of another in the course of going about his daily business. We seek more and more privacy, and feel more and more alienated and lonely when we get it.’[12]

From the angle of philosophy, Charles Taylor stated: ‘Once individuals become the locus of meaning, the social atomisation that results means that disbelief no longer has social consequences. “We” are not a seamless cloth, a tight-knit social body; instead, “we” are just a collection of individuals – like individual molecules in a social “gas”.’[13]

The observations of George Monbiot are pertinent: ‘Consumerism fills the social void. But far from curing the disease of isolation, it intensifies social comparison to the point at which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. Social media brings us together and drives us apart, allowing us precisely to quantify our social standing, and see that other people have more friends and followers than we do.’[14]

In this context that it was observed by Henri Nouwen that ‘Loneliness is one of the most universal sources of human suffering today.’ There only has to be observation of how people, society is taking advantage of all those who are lonely. Sometimes it can be subtle with consumerism and materialism with the need to fill the hole of wanting to belong with things. More concern can be taken with the gang culture with the lonely wanting to feel as though they are part of something.

Several diversions and distractions have been identified:
·         Drink and drugs
·         Sex
·         Gambling
·         Television, known as the ‘plug-in drug’
·         Fantasy
·         Travel
·         Socialising

Research has shown that people with high loneliness levels were apt to engage in ‘physical health behaviours’ and were more likely to adopt negative coping strategies, such as smoking and not exercising.[15]

It does social and economic consequences which are far beyond the perimeters of this article. One area to briefly touch on is that researchers from the United States undertook a study of deaths by euthanasia in the Netherlands. It was discovered that, in the examination of psychiatric reasons given, 56 per cent of those who chose to die by euthanasia did so because they were socially isolated.[16] As the law in the Netherlands states that the patient must be experiencing ‘unbearable suffering’ due to an untreatable condition so, without going into the moral and ethical issues surrounding euthanasia, the people must have felt that their lives were not worth living anymore because of the loneliness that they were experiencing.

The late comedic actor, Robin Williams, commented: ‘I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up all alone, it’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone.’

Dr Ad Vingerhoets, a social and behavioural scientist, wrote: ‘tears are of extreme relevance for human nature. We cry because we need other people’[17]

The definition of loneliness by one article was ‘a distressing discrepancy between desired and actual levels of social contact.’[18] The same piece illustrated that it was a causation for many serious medical issues, such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer disease, stroke, and insomnia.

In 2010, the Mental Health Foundation undertook a survey on how lonely people are in society today.

The summary of their findings in The Lonely Society (www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/loneliness-and-mental-health) are below:
How often do you feel lonely?

Total
Age 18 – 34 yrs
Age 35 – 54 yrs
Age 55+ yrs
Often
11%
12%
11%
9%
Sometimes
14%
45%
35%
26%
Rarely
33%
31%
32%
36%
Never
22%
13%
22%
29%
Have you ever felt depressed because you felt alone?

Total
Age 18 – 34 yrs
Age 35 – 54 yrs
Age 55+ yrs
Yes
42%
53%
43%
32%
No
55%
44%
54%
66%
Don’t know
3%
4%
4%
2%
Have you ever experienced depression or anxiety?

Total
Age 18 – 34 yrs
Age 35 – 54 yrs
Age 55+ yrs
Yes
56%
55%
61%
53%
No
39%
38%
35%
44%
Don’t know
5%
7%
4%
3%
Thinking about when you experienced depression or anxiety, did it result in isolating yourself from family and friends?

Total
Age 18 – 34 yrs
Age 35 – 54 yrs
Age 55+ yrs
Yes
57%
64%
65%
42%
No
40%
31%
33%
54%
Don’t know
3%
5%
2%
4%

How strongly do you agree/disagree with the following statement: ‘I worry about feeling lonely’

Total
Age 18 – 34 yrs
Age 35 – 54 yrs
Age 55+ yrs
Strongly agree
6%
10%
7%
3%
Agree
18%
26%
16%
14%
Neither
23%
23%
23%
22%
Disagree
24%
24%
24%
24%
Strongly disagree
26%
15%
27%
35%
Don’t know
2%
2%
2%
1%

It is a condition that can affect everyone, regardless of age and circumstances. George Monbiot has written: ‘Three months ago we read that loneliness has become an epidemic among young adults. Now we learn that it is just as great an affliction of older people. A study by Independent Age shows that severe loneliness in England blights the lives of 700,000 men and 1.1 m women over 50 and is rising with astonishing speed.

‘Ebola is unlikely ever to kill as many people as this disease strikes down. Social isolation is as potent a cause of early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day; loneliness, research suggests, is twice as deadly as obesity. Dementia, high blood pressure, alcoholism and accidents – all these, like depression, paranoia, anxiety and suicide, become more prevalent when connections are cut. We cannot cope alone.’

He continued: ‘Yes, factories have closed, people travel by car instead of buses, use YouTube rather than the cinema. But these shifts alone fail to explain the speed of our social collapse. These structural changes have been accompanied by a life-denying ideology, which enforces and celebrates our social isolation. The war of every man against every man – competition and individualism, in other words – is the religion of our time, justified by a mythology of lone rangers, sole traders, self-starters, self-made men and women, going it alone. For the most social creatures, who cannot prosper without love, there is no such thing as society, only heroic individualism. What counts is to win. The rest is collateral damage.’[19]

The Physical and Mental Effects

Loneliness is literally toxic. Studies have shown that it can be as harmful for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.[20]

People with a high degree of loneliness are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as a people with a low degree of loneliness.[21] Loneliness has been linked to increased risk of depression, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia and high blood pressure.[22]

Indeed, it has been ascertained that seeing friends almost daily at the age of 60 years reduced the risk of developing dementia by 12 per cent compared to those people who only saw one or two friends every couple of months.[23] Dr Andrew Sommerlad expanded: 
‘We’ve found that social contact, in middle age and later life, appears to lower the risk of dementia.

‘This finding could feed into strategies to reduce everyone’s risk of developing dementia, adding yet another reason to promote connected communities and find ways to reduce isolation and loneliness.’

It is not known if social isolation may trigger an inflammation in the brain or make the person more likely to adopt an unhealth lifestyle.[24]

A lack of sleep a causal trigger of loneliness, as research has discovered that:[25]
a.    Sleep loss (both total deprivation and even modest night-to-night reductions) can lead to people becoming more socially isolated, enforcing greater inter-personal distance from other people.
b.    The parts of the brain that activate the sense of being awake, impairs the other parts that encourage social engagement and the mindfulness of others.
c.     People who come in contact with a sleep-deprived person, even for a short 60 -second moment, will feel lonelier themselves as a matter of contagion.

One commentator has listed the effects of loneliness on the brain:[26]
·         Areas of the brain that are involved with the perception of pain are activated.
·         Grey matter density decreases in an area of the brain related to social perception.
·         Areas of the brain dealing with ‘mentalisation’ (imagining other people’s minds are less active.
·         The brain is increasingly active in response to negative stimuli, with decreased recovery (so, for example, showing increased anger).

The problem has got so bad that there is an increasing demand for ‘rent-a-family’ in many countries to meet the needs of lonely people. There are some people who use this service to maintain appearances so that they can keep up the pretence that they have a happy family. There are also, somewhat interestingly, those people who hire actors to impersonate estranged relatives so that the person can feel, however fleetingly, a familial connection that they are yearning for.

People who are lonely are more likely to experience a decrease in the ability to cope with daily living activities, mobility, climbing and an increase risk of morbidity.[27]

It has been ascertained that men who eat alone twice a day, who were typically unmarried, were more likely to develop abdominal obesity. Indeed, they were 64 per cent more likely to develop metabolic syndrome, which is the combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. Women in a similar situation were 29 per cent more likely to develop metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is dangerous as it puts the person at greater risk of coronary heart disease and strokes.[28]

Research in Denmark also found that people who are lonely are at double risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. It was more than three times the risk than people reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression.[29]

Another study has found that loneliness is associated with a 29 per cent increased risk of a heart or angina attack, and a 32 per cent increased risk of having a stroke.[30]

A commentator has summarised the physical effects of loneliness:[31]
·         Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
·         Decreased cognitive and executive function
·         Possible 26 per cent increased risk of premature deaths from all causes
·         Increased chronic inflammation and decreased inflammatory control (linked to the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia)
·         Decreased immune function leading to vulnerability to many kinds of disease
·         Increased depressive symptoms
·         Increased fearfulness of social situations (sometimes resulting in paranoia)
·         Increased severity of strokes (with shortened survival)
·         An overall decrease in the subjective sense of wellbeing

In the United Kingdom, it is reported that one in ten people attend a doctor’s surgery because they are lonely.[32] There is also an economic cost as it is estimated that loneliness costs the British economy £2.5 billion annually due to reduced productivity and sick absence.[33]

Loneliness can affect bodily health as those people who live alone have premature death rates at least double the national average. Among divorced people, the suicide rates are five times higher and fatal accident injury rates four times higher than compared with non-divorced people.[34] Married cancer patients live longer than unmarried. A study by John Hopkins University found that the overall mortality rate was 26 per cent greater for widowers than for married men.[35]

Young People

The pace of modern life and the increase in technological communication has exasperated an already fragile mindset of the modern teenager. Ross Peterson, a New England psychiatrist, has determined that the source of increased depression and anxiety in this age group is their ‘terror of aloneness.’ Where the tentacles of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and other social media platforms intrude into their lives, it is impossible for them to disengage. This so-called connectedness through the ‘terror of aloneness’ and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) has ironically led to an increased sense of loneliness. In 2007, when the iPhone was launched, a survey of teenage students in the United States revealed a high level of feeling lonely on many occasions – a figure that has not subsided in future surveys.[36]

It is because of this technological isolation that many young people feel isolated and lonely. A survey found two in five of those in the 16 – 24 age group experience loneliness compared to 29 per cent in the 65 – 74 age group and 27 per cent in those in the 75 years and over age group. It is an irony that people with more online Facebook friends are more likely to report being lonely that those with fewer.[37]

The feelings of being lonely among young people was confirmed by the BBC Loneliness Project, which conducted a global survey. It found that the instance of loneliness was highest among 16 – 24 year-olds with 40 per cent stating that they felt lonely often or very often.[38]

Other factors affecting loneliness among young people were:[39]
·         More girls than boys feel lonely.
·         The transitions from primary school to secondary school and from school to university are likely to be associated with being lonely.
·         Young people in cities were more likely to be lonely that those in rural settings or in small towns.
·         Poorer young people, such as those eligible for free school meals, were more at risk of being lonely.
·         Loneliness could be identified with additional situations, e.g. illness, family tensions, bereavement or bullying.

Older People

Loneliness experienced by older people is a reality for many, especially on the least expected day. Research undertaken by the older person’s charity Royal Voluntary Service (formerly WRVS) has shown that, for one million people aged 65 years or older in the UK, Sunday is the loneliest day of the week. For 13 per cent of this age group, Sunday is dreaded as it is regarded as a family day and they do not have contact with their family.

There are examples of churches arranging for people to come to their houses (either as a single or in groups) so that Sunday is not spent alone, and there are initiatives by companies to encourage people to share so that this day is not dreaded (such as Bisto Together, https://www.premierfoodservice.co.uk/news/Eight-reasons-to-get-involved-with-Bisto-Together).

A previous study by the Royal Voluntary Service had indicated that the nearest child for 10 per cent of older people live more than an hour’s drive away (40 miles or more), making that daily or weekly contact more difficult.

The research showed that 33 per cent of older people missed sitting down with their family and 33 per cent of older people do not enjoy eating a meal with someone.

Other facts on loneliness for older people show:
·         About 3.8 million older people live alone, 70 per cent of these are women.[40]
·         Nearly 2.5 million people over 75 years-old live alone.[41]
·         Approximately 7 per cent of those people aged 65 years or over in the UK say they are always or often lonely.[42]
·         Half of all older people consider the television as their main form of company.[43][44]

The Campaign to End Loneliness, together with Age UK, has discovered that extreme loneliness can increase the risk of premature death by 14 per cent (compared to obesity which increases the risk by 7 per cent). We live in a nation where 51 per cent of people aged 75 years or older live alone with over 800,000 experiencing chronic loneliness in England alone.

Jack Neill-Hall of the Campaign to End Loneliness does not believe that our attitudes towards older people has necessarily changed, but that that the alteration in demographics means that there are more older people who are isolated. The triggers are and will continue to be bereavement, retirement, disability and poverty.

It is acknowledged that there are many organisations (also applies such as Age UK) who are doing good work with older people[45]; but it is often Christians who are at the forefront in this area with their charities (such as local ones like Sharing Lives[46]) and clubs. Very often it is being part of an intergenerational congregation that is stimulating  older and other lonely people. An example is at St Cuthbert’s, North Wembley, who set up a memory café, where memory games are played, refreshments are provided, and where a place of safety and joy was created.[47]

It is important to get lonely people out and about. The lead author on a report about older people leaving their homes to make friendships, Dr Jeremy Jacobs, commented: What is interesting is that the improved survival associated with getting out of the house frequently was also observed among people with low levels of activity, and even those with impaired mobility…Resilient individuals remained engaged, irrespective of their physical limitations.’[48]

We are told that we are to respect the older generation, which is linked with our relationship with God – ‘Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God, I am the Lord.’ (Leviticus 19: 32) Although we are instructed to look after our parents, the general principle also applies to all older people – ‘Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.’ (Proverbs 23: 22)

We should always give time for all lonely people, especially those who are older. They will always appreciate us sitting down with them, whatever their capacity to participate in any conversation.

There should be no lonely person in their older age, and it is the responsibility of those in the Church and others to eradicate this situation.

In a survey of people over the age of 75 years, it was ascertained that men were more likely than men to live in isolation and loneliness – 36 per cent of men (estimated at about 190,000) described themselves as lonely or very lonely, with many of them spending numerous days without speaking to anyone. The comparative rate for women was 31 per cent. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that only10 per cent of men were willing to talk about their feelings with friends and family, compared to a quarter of the sample of the women.[49]

Living with Cancer

It has been ascertained that 22 per cent of people living with cancer in the UK (estimated at 400,000 people) also encounter loneliness on a regular basis as a result of their disability.[50]

The people living with cancer who are most likely to feel lonely are those where the disease is advanced, spread or relapsed; living alone; and/or have made a change to their working life.

The ongoing effect is that many people in this situation find themselves to be housebound and unable to feed themselves, according to research undertaken for Macmillan Cancer Support.

In the survey conducted by Ipsos MORI, which compared the experiences of cancer patients who felt lonely since their diagnosis (or lonelier than they did before) and those who do not feel lonely, the lonely cancer patients were:
·         Three times more likely to drink alcohol than they usually do (22% vs. 7%)
·         Almost five times more likely not to have left the house for days (66% vs. 14%)
·         Almost three times more likely to have problems sleeping (76% vs. 27%)

It is the experience of many of those people in this situation that their diet worsens, at a time when they need to build up their strength to combat the disease. Lonely cancer patients are five times more likely to skip meals (38% vs. 7%) and nearly eight times more likely to be living on a poor diet (45% vs. 6%).

Whilst the reasons for not eating properly can include a lack of appetite and being too weak to cook, 13 per cent of the lonely cancer patients who have missed meals state that it is because they have insufficient finances to buy enough food.

Ciaran Devane, the Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, commented: ‘Loneliness is blighting the lives of hundreds of thousands of cancer patients in the UK. It’s hard enough for people being hit with the devastating news that they have cancer, without having to suffer the additional effects that being lonely brings. It’s heartbreaking to think of people struggling to eat or leave the house because they have been abandoned and left to deal with the cancer alone.’

Ms Devane continued: ‘This is a growing problem which is set to get worse as the number of people diagnosed with cancer doubles from two to four million in the next 20 years.’
The sad issue is that  the risk factor of some cancers increases and may be fatal as the result of social isolation.[51]

Alleviating Loneliness

There are many ways of combatting loneliness as the appendices below indicates. 

Meanwhile, Laura Ferguson has outlined the following activities that can be undertaken to alleviate your own loneliness or the loneliness of others:[52]
1.    Take up a new activity
2.    Talk to someone about how you are feeling
3.    Volunteer
4.    Reach out to those around you – even if they are not lonely
5.    Identify those most at risk from loneliness
6.    Develop local loneliness plans
7.    Measure what works
The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK has suggested the following steps to help lonely older people:
·         Start a conversation. Stop and talk. Don’t hurry the,
·         Offer practical help, such as shopping, posting a letter, picking up a prescription, or walking their dog.
·         Offer to accompany them or give them a lift to medical appointments, the library, hairdresser’s or church services.
·         Share your time – volunteer with an organisation that has befriending services matching you with an isolated older person for home visits or regular phone calls.
·         Help with household tasks – offer to take out the rubbish, change light bulbs, clear snow, put up pictures.
·         Share a meal – take round an extra plate of hot homemade food or a frozen portion.

On the other end of the age scale, the charity Mind suggests the following steps to help a lonely younger person:
·         Reach out. Arrange to meet face to face or talk on the phone.
·         Encourage people to start conversations, whether a short face to face chat or joining an online discussion.
·         Offer to go to a class or group activity with them.
·         Suggest they look for talking treatments in their local area to help them manage the mental health effects of loneliness or recommend an online support community like Elefriends.
·         Listen and don’t make assumptions. People can feel lonely even if it looks like they have a busy and full life.

One of the other ways of confronting loneliness can be through reading. As the authors of one report have pointed out: ‘Many people already use reading to ward off loneliness – and usually quite successfully, as studies find that regular readers tend to be less lonely.[53] 

Other research found that 95 per cent of people who are blind or partially sighted read (through an audiobook or another technology) at least once a week to alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation.[54] Books can also give groups a way to talk through their thoughts and feelings in an indirect way. The power of book-based social contact is borne out by evaluations of reading programmes. In a national reading befriending programme including isolated and vulnerable older people, 88 per cent of participants appreciate the increased social contact from reading-inspired conversation[55].’[56]

A very obvious way is one that was adopted by Burnham-on-Sea in the UK, where they have designed two benches in the town as ‘chat benches.’ These seats each have a sign that reads: ‘The Happy to Chat Bench: Sit Here if You Don’t Mind Someone Stopping to Say Hello.’ Police Community Support Worker Tracey Grobbeler explained to Burnham-On-Sea.com: ‘The sign simply helps to break down the invisible, social barriers that exists between strangers who find themselves in a common place. Simply stopping to say ‘hello’ to someone at the Chat Bench could make a huge difference to the vulnerable people in our communities and help make life a little better for them.’

The Silver Line was the initiative by the campaigner Esther Rantzen, who recognised that many older people have been debilitated by loneliness. The fee and confidential line is open 24 hours a day offering friendship, advice and information for older people. Ms Rantzen was motivated by the neglect shown to older people, made worse by cuts in council budgets for such services. Statistics have shown that, in the first six months since this only dedicated helpline in the United Kingdom had been operating, there were more than 100,000 calls to this service. The figure equates to approximately one pensioner calling every three minutes for someone to speak to.

Ms Rantzen commentated: ‘This has to be a wake-up call because this is, and will continue to be a huge ongoing issue.’

She continued: ‘I have unearthed a huge problem…It is very distressing but that it is why everyone needs to act.’[57]

Best-selling novelist Jodi Picoult uses the focus of strong community in several of her novels. In Change of Heart, she wrote: ‘What religion did for me went beyond belief – it made me part of a community. And in Sing You Home, she wrote:  I wasn’t just born again, I was given a large, extended family.’

As we have seen, older people are one of the groups in society more likely to experience loneliness than anyone else and research has shown that older people living in care homes are twice as likely to be lonely, with one resident describing it as ‘being alone in a crowd.’ 

Embracing Age is a Christian organisation that trains volunteers to spend time and build friendships with care home volunteers, for example they have fifty volunteers in all the care homes in the London Borough of Richmond.[58]

Another example of Christians showing love towards those people who are lonely is in the development of Neighbourhood Chaplains, which was launched by the group Counties. There are three levels: initial contacts who knock on doors; befrienders who regularly visit; and helping hands who offer practical help. Martin Erwin, the CEO of Counties, said: ‘The aim is to show the love of Jesus in both word and deed. It gives local churches the tools to connect their community projects (such as CAP [Christians Against Poverty], food banks, parents and toddlers, coffee mornings, etc.) with the vast numbers of lonely people in the UK. It will offer a friendly face through a regular visit, a listening ear and helping hands.’[59]

Another church, St Paul’s, Heaton Moor, has developed the concept of Men in Sheds, which encourages men to come together to make things, rather than isolating themselves in their own sheds at the bottom of the garden.[60] It recognises that men, in general, would rather be getting on with doing things rather becoming solely relational in a sitting down and talking way. It shows that the differences in the genders can mean that loneliness can be  addressed by different solutions.

The Bible shows that social interaction is necessary. We are encouraged to meet together continually (Hebrews 10: 25). If we are Christians, we are to love one another like brothers and sisters, and show hospitality (literally ‘the love of strangers’) to those we do not know (Hebrews 13: 1 – 2). It is interesting that the word ‘companionship’ means to ‘share bread’ so we can develop friendships and combat loneliness through the simple acts of sharing meals.

Enuma Okoro has written: ‘As Christians, we’re called to train one another in the theological virtue of caritas, as understood by Thomas Aquinas as friendship with God that ultimately leads to deepened friendship with one another…[cultivating] more genuine depths of safe intimacy with one another not merely for our own sakes but for the sake of the one who first called us friends and never sent his disciples out alone.’[61]

It is reflecting what writers have confirmed down through the ages:
·         Jonathan Edwards: ‘The well-being and happiness of society is friendship. ‘Tis the highest happiness of all moral agents.’
·         Augustine: ‘In this world two things are essential: life and friendship. Both should be highly prized and we must not undervalue them.
·         John Newton: ‘I think to a feeling mind there is no temporal pleasure equal to the pleasure of friendship.’
·         C S Lewis: ‘Friendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly to me it is the chief happiness of life.’

It does not have to be a striking example as it can be low key. It has been estimated that thirty hours of conversations (which soon rackets up if they think about 90 twenty-minute conversations) will also impact upon you as you will increase your life satisfaction, happiness and will become more empathetic, so it affects positively all who are involved.

It reflects the words of J C Ryle: ‘The world is full of sorrow because it is full of sin. It is a dark place. It is a lonely place. The brightest sunbeam in it is a friend. Friendship halves our sorrows and doubles our joy.’

It is because we are created for community. When God said in the beginning ‘let us make man’ (Genesis 1: 26), it was because He wanted to make mankind in reflection of the relationship that He already had – the trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the only thing that was not good was that man was alone (Genesis 2: 18) so God created a companion.

It was in that heart-wrenching moment on the cross, when Jesus cried out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27: 46), that showed that it was possible to be alone in a crowd. It was that eternal community that had been broken and the Son proved that it was possible to be lonely in a crowd – devoid of all contact, both human and divine.

It is possible to come to God in those moments as we are reminded: ‘Therefore, let us drawn near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may need mercy and find grace to help in the time of need.’ (Hebrews 4: 16)

The psalmist, King David, admitted that he was ‘lonely and afflicted.’ (Psalm 25: 16) However, he did not allow the dark cloud of loneliness to become a storm of despondency as he recognised that God had not left him. He was able to proclaim: ‘My hope, Lord, us in you.’ (Psalm 25: 21) It is backed up by the promise that God is with us in the darkest moments: ‘Do not be afraid or terrified…for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.’ (Deuteronomy 31: 6)

It is reminiscent of a prayer in John Baillie’s A Diary of Private Prayer: ‘I thank Thee for the blessed assurance that I shall not be called upon to face [the interests of another day] alone or in my own strength, but shall be at all times be accompanied by Thy presence and fortified by Thy grace.’

I am reminded of the little boy who stood at the top of the stairs in his pyjamas, calling down to his mother for to come up and keep him company. She replied that Jesus would be with him. The child’s response was that he needed someone with skin on. It could be that we are the people that need to be those people: representatives of Christ with skin on to come alongside those who are lonely.

There is that intrinsic desire within each of us to be connected to another. The sentiment is captured by John Donne, in Devotions XVII, ‘No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is piece of the Continent, part of the main.’

We are to gently carry one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ (Galatians 6: 2). Sigmund Freud, in his chapter on anxiety in his Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, tells a story about a young boy who was afraid of the dark, except for when his aunt talked with him. The boy said, ‘When someone speaks, it gets lighter.’

We are to show people love that they will find surprising and warmly embracing. Edwin Markham in his epigram ‘Outwitted’ described it like this:

He draw a circle that shut me out –
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We draw a circle that took him in.

However, people often need the physical touch and company that only other people can give. God has given us gifts according to the grace that is given to us so that we can reach out to others who are hurting and are lonely. In Romans 12: 8, there are two gifts in particular: encouragement and mercy.

The word ‘encouraging’ means literally to ‘walk alongside’ (the description of the Holy Spirit in John 14: 16 is derived from the same word) so we can demonstrate how God acts towards us by sharing that same attitude toward others – a necessary approach for those who are feeling alone and need to know that someone is there alongside them.

There is the benefit of hugging another person appropriately as it released a surge of oxytocin (also known as the ‘love hormone’) which has benefits for numerous mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression. Oxytocin activates the emotional part of the brain that promotes feelings of contentment, trust, intimacy and bonding.

The word ‘mercy’ is literally more than sympathy for it drives the Christian to action. When a person feels alone, they need more than sympathy – they need someone to talk with them and is prepared to help them in practical matters as they struggle with life.

Monica Brands expressed the love of God being given to us: ‘This free, life-giving love, rooted in God’s love for each of us, is how Scripture portrays the community of faith made possible by Christ and His Spirit (1 John 3: 1 – 18). As the apostle John emphasises love – “real love” – is the heart of the gospel (1 John 4: 10). When, through the Spirit, we’re living in God’s love, and God’s love is living in us (vv. 13, 16), our love for each other can stop being driven by fear (v. 18). As we find healing in Him, we can love, really love, each other “because he loved us first” (v. 19)’[62]

On the same point, Oswald Chambers urged us: ‘The knowledge that God loved me beyond all limits will compel me to go into all the world to love others in the same way.’

Scott Saul has re-emphasised the point: ‘We must become convinced that Love has to be a person before it can become a verb.’[63]The outcome is that ‘The more we walk the narrow path, the wider our communal embrace will be. The more convinced we are of the exclusive claims of Jesus – that he is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except through him – the more inclusively kind and compassionate we will be.’[64]

Prior to telling the parable of the Good Samaritan (love in action), Jesus exhorts us to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself,’ which includes those people in your neighbourhood who are lonely.

Some recommended sources:
Sara McKee et al, ‘The Forgotten Age – Understanding poverty and social exclusion in later life’ (Centre for Social Justice, November 2010
Mental Health Foundation, ‘The Lonely Society?’
Equality and Human Rights Commission, Age Concern, Help the Aged, ‘Just Ageing? Life course influences and well-being in later life: a review’
The Hanover @50 Debate, ‘Strengthening relationships to prevent isolation and loneliness in old age’ (Centre for Social Justice, 2013)
British Red Cross, ‘Barriers to belonging: An exploration of loneliness among people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds’


Appendix – Songs about Loneliness
All By Myself – by Eric Carmen
 When I was young
I never needed anyone
And making love was just for fun
Those days are gone

Living alone
I think of all the friends I’ve known
But when I dial the telephone
Nobody’s home

All by myself
Don’t want to be by myself anymore
All by myself
Don’t want to live all by myself anymore

Hard to be sure
Sometimes I feel so insecure
And love so insecure
Remains the cure

All by myself
Don’t want to be by myself anymore
All by myself
Don’t want to live all by myself anymore

When I was young
I needed anyone
And making love was just for fun
Those days are gone

All by myself
Don’t want to be by myself anymore
All by myself
Don’t want to live all by myself anymore

All by myself
Don’t want to be by myself anymore
All by myself
Don’t want to live all by myself anymore

All by myself
Don’t want to be by myself anymore

Help! – by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
(Help!) I need somebody
(Help!) Not just anybody
(Help!) You know I need someone
(Help!)

When I was younger so much younger than today
I never needed anybody’s help in any way
But now those days are gone, I’m not so self-assured
Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ‘road
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me?

And now my life has changed on oh so many ways
My independence seems to vanish in the haze
But every now and then I feel so insecure
I know that I just need you like I’ve never done before

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ‘road
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me?

When I was younger so much younger than today
I never needed anybody’s help in any way
But now those days are gone, I’m not so self-assured
Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ‘road
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me?

Dance Away – by Bryan Ferry
Yesterday, well it seemed so cool
When I walked you home, kissed good night
I said “it’s love” and you said “all right”
It’s funny now how I could never cry
Until tonight and you pass by
Hand in hand with another guy
You’re dressed to kill and guess who’s dying?
Dance away the heartache
Dance away the tears
Dance away

Loneliness is a crowded room
Full of open hearts turned to stone
All together all alone
All at once my whole world had changed
Now I’m in the dark, off the wall
Let the strobe light up them all
I close my eyes and dance till dawn

Now I know I must walk the line
Until I find an open door
There was I, many times a fool
I hope and pray, but not too much
Out of reach is out of touch
All the way is far enough
Dance away

Lonely Boy – by Andrew Gold
He was born on a summer day, 1951
And with a slap of the hand, he had landed as an only son
His mother and father said, “What a lovely boy.
We’ll teach him what we learned, ah, yes, just what we learned
We’ll dress him up warmly, and we’ll send him to school
It’ll teach him how to fight, to be nobody’s fool”

Oh, oh, what a lonely boy
Oh, what a lonely boy
Oh, what a lonely boy

In the summer of ’53, his mother brought him a sister
And she told him, “We must attend to her needs
She’s so much younger than you”
Well, he ran down the hall and cried
Oh, how could his parents have lied?
When they said he was their only son
He thought he was their only one

Oh, oh, what a lonely boy
Oh, what a lonely boy
Oh, what a lonely boy

Goodbye Mama
Goodbye you
Goodbye Papa
I’m pushing on through

He left home on a winter day, 1969
And he hoped to find all the love he had lost in that earlier time
Well, his sister grew up, and she married a man
He gave her a son, ah, yes, a lovely son
They dressed him up warmly, they sent him to school
It taught him how to fight, to be nobody’s fool

Oh, oh, what a lonely boy
Oh, what a lonely boy
Oh, what a lonely boy

Whoa-whoa-whoa, oh, what a lonely boy
Oh, what a lonely boy
Oh, what a lonely boy

I am a Rock – by Paul Simon
A winter’s day
In a deep and dark
December
I am alone
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow
I am a rock
I am an island

I’ve built walls
A fortress deep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain
It’s laughter and it’s loving I distain
I am a rock
I am an island

Don’t’ talk of love
But I’ve heard the words before
It’s sleeping in my memory
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died
If I never loved I never would have cried
I am a rock
I am an island

I have my books’
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armour
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island

And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries


Appendix – Coping with Loneliness: Some tips that others have found helpful in combatting loneliness

These comments are taken from the Care for the Family website from people who experience loneliness through bereavement (https://careforthefamily.org.uk/family-life/bereavement-support/widowed-young-support/coping-with-loneliness).
Craig: ‘Purpose to do something that you used to enjoy. For me that was fitness activities and sometimes it meant getting a babysitter.’
Chantal: ‘Weekends were the worst time so I took the kids swimming every Saturday morning and asked friends to pop in. Later I took up several new hobbies/interests (tennis, ceroc, choir, orchestra, A Level).’
P – J: ‘For me it was having the right people to be able to talk to – friends and/or professionals that were sensitive, understanding, good listeners and cautious about “good advice” that they offered. I didn’t need good advice I needed someone to be able to create the right kind of space for me to be able to grieve. Sharing my grief with someone else was often helpful.’
Aurel: ‘Writing my prayers and journaling.’
Helen: ‘I decided to join the local running club which met every week. I was definitely a beginner and was very unfit but it gave me a reason to go out and meet new people. It worked because I didn’t have to talk to them (our group was so unfit that we couldn’t run and talk at the same time.) Although it was really hard it really helped my confidence and helped me feel less lonely. For that time I wasn’t a young widow but an unfit runner who as time went on slowly became fitter and made some new contacts. I also joined a WAY (Widowed and Young) group locally which met weekly in a social club. It helped to have someone in a similar situation to talk to.’
Elaine: ‘If I was asked out to friends’ or families’ homes I always said and still say yes, that would be lovely despite how I was feeling. Also listen to a radio programme with lots of talking, like Radio 4, as this distracts from constantly thinking about what has happened to you.’
Jackie: ‘I found it helpful to make sure I had something simple to look forward to: arranging for a really good friend to visit for a takeaway or if I was really organised to get a babysitter and go out.’
Ruth: ‘Make sure that you have a list of people that you can call. Ask people who have offered to help if they would make a regular commitment into your life like a regular meal together or evening activity such as a walk or babysitting for you so that you can go out.’
Kate: ‘Take it one little step at a time, do not try to go too fast. There is no normal. Everyone’s grief goes at a different rate, so ignore all those who say you should be over it by now.’
Sarah: ‘Accept every invitation. Make use of your friends, i.e. if they’ve said ‘any time you need me…’ take them up on it!’

Appendix – Loneliness


·         Visit a friend or go out for a coffee with them
·         Invite friends around for a meal
·         Skype or Facetime friends when you cannot go out at night
·         Join others on Facebook groups
·         Buy a pet. Pets are great companions who greet you at the door when you arrive home and will be there for a snuggle on the couch whilst watching TV.
·         Visit others in need, such as the elderly, sick or disabled.
·         Make a conscious effort to encourage others.
·         Take up a hobby. Adult colouring books are the rage at the moment and crocheting has made a real come back.
·         Watch a new TV series.

Things that may help when there is no-one around:
·         Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small or trivial they may seem. Make a list of ‘one good thing I did today’ each day for a month, then look back to encourage yourself.
·         Keep a ‘joy’ box of memories, photos, letters, cards, etc. to remind you of happy times and events.
·         Cultivate a positive mental attitude: to be optimistic, appreciate and love yourself.
·         Have an encouraging book or music close to hand for those lonely nights.
·         Set yourself realistic goals.
·         Acknowledge and admit your feelings.
·         Do something for yourself, such as a bubble bath with candles and wine or read a good book.
·         Live one day at a time.


[1]British Red Cross, ‘Our work with Co-op to tackle loneliness and isolation,’ 2018, https://www.redcross.org.uk/get-involved/partner-with-us/our-partners/co-op
[2]Sacha Hilhorst, Alan Lockey and Tom Speight, A Society of Readers(Demos, London) p.7
[3]British Red Cross, Barriers to belonging: An exploration of loneliness among people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, p. 31
[4]Nicholas Kristof, ‘Let’s wage war on loneliness,’ New York Times, 9 November 2019
[5]Cited in Mark Easton, ‘How should we tackle the loneliness epidemic?’ BBC News, 11 February 2018, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-42887932
[6] De Jong-Gierveld, ‘developing and Testing a Model of Loneliness,’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, July 1987, 53 (1)
[7]Peter Berger, The Desecularisation of the World: Resurgent Religion and World Politics (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1999)
[8]Paul Williams, News from Bible Society, Transmission, Spring 2018
[9]Carers UK, ‘8 in 10 people caring for loved ones ‘have felt lonely or socially isolated’,’ 2017, https://www.carersuk.org/news-and-campaigns/news/8-in-10-people-caring-for-loved-ones-have-felt-lonely-or-socially-isolated
[10]Action for Children, “Charity reveals ‘devastating impact’ of loneliness on UK parents, children”,
https://www.actionforchildren.org.uk/news-and-blogs/press-releases/2017/november/charityreveals-
devastating-impact-of-loneliness-on-uk-parents-children/ (2017); The Forum, “This is
how it feels to be lonely”, https://migrantsorganise.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Lonelinessreport_
The-Forum_UPDATED.pdf (2014); Sense, “A right to friendship?: Challenging the barriers
to friendship for people with disabilities”, https://www.sense.org.uk/umbraco/surface/download/
download?filepath=/media/1591/campaign-loneliness-a-right-to-friendship.pdf (2015).
[11]Cited in Laura Lea, ‘’Down and anxious’ – when loneliness hits,’ BBC News, 31 January 2017, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38760612
[12]Cited in Philip Yancy and Paul Brand, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made(Marshall Pickering, London, 1987), p. 59
[13]Quoted in James K A Smith, How (not) to be secular: Reading Charles Taylor(Wm B Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2014), p. 31
[14]George Monbiot, ‘Neoliberalism is creating loneliness. That’s what’s wrenching society apart,’ The Guardian, 12 October 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/12/neoliberalism-creating-loneliness-wrenching-society-apart
[15]Cited in Sarah Young, ‘Lonely millennials twice as likely to experience depression or anxiety, finds study,’ The Independent, 25 April 2018
[16]Cited in ‘Study finds most euthanasia deaths arise from loneliness,’ 22 February 2016, http://www.ionainstitute.ie/index.php?id=4297
[17]Ad Vingerhoets, Why only humans weep (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013)
[18]Rita Rubin, ‘Loneliness might be a killer, but what’s the best way to protect against it?’ Journal of the American Medical Association, 2017, 318 (19): 1853 - 1855
[19] George Monbiot, ‘The Age of Loneliness is killing us,’ The Guardian, 14 October 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/14/age-of-loneliness-killing-us
[20] J Holt-Lunstad, TB Smith, J B Layton, ‘Social Relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytical review,’ PLoS Med 2010; Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Timothy B Smith, Mark Baker, Tyler Harris and David Stephenson, ‘Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality,’ Perspectives on Psychological Science, 11 March 2011
[21]RS Wilson, KR Krueger, SE Arnold, JA Schneider, JF Kelly, LL Barnes et al, ‘Loneliness and risk of Alzheimer disease,’ Arch Gen Psychiatry, 2007
[22]Campaign to End Loneliness, Threat to Health, 2018, https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/threat-to-health
[23]Andrew Sommerlad, Severine Sabia, Archana Singh-Manoux, Glyn Lewis and Gill Livingston, ‘Association of social contact with dementia and cognition: 28-year follow-up of the Whitehall cohort study,’ PLOS Medicine, 2 August 2019
[24]Cited in Alexandra Thompson, ‘Being lonely raises the risk of dementia: Social isolation ‘may trigger inflammation in the brain’,’ Daily Mail, 31 October 2018. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-6333541/Being-lonely-raises-risk-dementia-Social-isolation-trigger-inflammation-brain.html
[25]Eti Ben Simon and Matthew Walker, ‘Sleep loss causes social withdrawal and loneliness,’ Nature Communications, 14 August 2018, issue 9: 3146
[26]Christopher Bullock, ‘I’m so lonesome I could cry,’ Harvard Health Publishing,21 March 2018, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/im-so-lonesome-i-could-cry-2018032113512
[27]Carla M Perissinotto, Irena Stijacic Cenzer and Kenneth F Covinsky, ‘Loneliness in Older Persons: A predictor of Functional Decline,’ Arch Intern Med, 2012, 172 (14): 1078 - 1084
[28]Cited in Olivia Petter, ‘Eating alone puts men at greater risk of obesity,’ The Independent, 3 November 2017
[29]Cited in Olivia Petter, ‘Lonely people are twice as likely to die from heart problems,’ The Independent, 11 June 2018
[30]Cited in Natasha Hinde, ‘Loneliness could increase risk of stroke by almost one third, study suggests,’ Huffington Post, 20 April 2016. https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/loneliness-could-increase-risk-of-stroke-by-almost-one-third_uk_5716431ae4b0f22f021a4271
[31]Christopher Bullock, ‘I’m so lonesome I could cry,’ Harvard Health Publishing, 21 March 2018, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/im-so-lonesome-i-could-cry-2018032113512
[32]Campaign to End Loneliness, ‘Lonely visits to the GP,’ 2018, https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/blog/lonely-visits-to-the-gp
[33][33]The Co-operative, ‘What loneliness costs UK employers,’ 2017, https://ww.co-operative.coop/campaigning/cost-of-loneliness
[34]See also John Bingham, ‘Loneliness ‘time bomb’ warning fuelled by baby-boomer divorces,’ Daily Telegraph, 11 April 2013 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/sex/divorce/9987391/Loneliness-time-bomb-warning-fuelled-by-baby-boomer-divorces.html
[35]Cited in Philip Yancey and Dr Paul Brand, The Gift of Pain – Why we hurt and what we can do about it (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1997) p. 276 note
[36]Alan Lightman, In Praise of Wasting Time (TED Books, London, 2018) pp 12 - 13
[37]Oscar Quine, ‘Loneliness is felt most intensely by young people, study finds (and turning to Facebook doesn’t help), Daily Telegraph, 1 October 2018, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/10/01/loneliness-felt-intensely-young-people-study-finds-turning-facebook/
[38]Claudia Hammond, ‘The surprising truth about loneliness,’ BBC Future, 1 October 2018, https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20180928-the-surprising-truth-about-loneliness
[39]Cited in Sean Coughlan, ‘Girls ‘more likely to face loneliness’,’ BBC News, 5 December 2018, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-46459954
[40]Labour Force Survey, Office for National Statistics, 2011
[41]General Lifestyle Survey 2011, Office for National Statistics, 2013
[42]Agenda for Later Life Survey for Age UK, 2013
[43]ICM Research survey for Age UK, December 2009
[44]These statistics were from Borough Insight, Epsom and Ewell Borough, issue 59
[45]Under its Campaign to End Loneliness, Age UK has published a good leaflet that churches will find useful  - http://www.ageuk.org.uk/Documents/EN-GB/For-professionals/Policy/Promising_approaches-loneliness_and_isolation.pdf?epslanguage=en-GB?dtrk=true. There are also good ideas at http://www.contact-the-elderly.org.uk/SM4/Mutable/Uploads/medialibrary/Volunteer-leaflet_VL0714-NB.pdf. The organisation Friends of the Elderly is also worth looking at – www.pilgrimsfriend.org.uk 
[48]Quoted in Jenny Cook, ‘This is why we should help elderly people get out of their house this winter,’ Netdoctor (UK), 27 November 2017, https://www.netdoctor.co.uk/healthy-living/wellbeing/news/a29221/elderly-people-leaving-house-health/
[49]Cited in ‘Stiff upper lip condemns 190,000 men to loneliness,’ Daily Telegraph, 26 July 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/elderhealth/9426619/Stiff-upper-lip-condems-190000-older-men-to-loneliness.html
[50]‘Loneliness damaging the lives of 400,000 people living with cancer, new research shows,’ 21 February 2014, http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Aboutus/News/Latest_News/Lonelinessdamagingthelivesof400,000peoplelivingwithcancer,newresearchshows.aspx
[51]Deborah Cohen, ‘Why does lonely make you ill?’ BBC World Services, 3 February 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-21517864
[52]There is more detail in Sarah Ferguson, ‘Seven Ways to End Loneliness,’ The Guardian, 15 December 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/15/seven-ways-to-end-loneliness
[53] P Dewan, ‘Economic well-being and social justice through pleasure reading,’ New Library World, 2016, 117 (9/10): 557 - 567
[54] C Creaser, R E Spacey and D Hicks, Assessing the impact of reading for blind and partially sighted adults (RNIB, The Reading Agency, Loughborough University, 2012)
[55] Reading Friends: Test phase evaluation report, Renaisi (2018)
[56]Sacha Hilhorst, Alan Lockey and Tom Speight, A Society of Readers(Demos, London) p.7
[57]The Silver Line service can be accessed by www.thesilverline.org.uk or 0800 460 80 90.
[59]‘Combatting Loneliness,’ Evangelicals Now, June 2017. For more details about Neighbourhood Chaplains, contact Jenny Rossiter, the Counties Resources Officer, at resources@countiesuk.orgor call the Counties office on 01373 823013, or visit the website www.neighbourhoodchaplains.co.uk
[60]‘How one church is using handy work to tackle men’s isolation,’ Christian Today, 21 February 2019, https://www.christiantoday.com/amp/how-one-church-is-using-handy-work-to-tackle-mens-isolation.htm
[61]Cited in Eric Metaxas and Stan Guthrie, ‘The Pandemic of Loneliness: The Church has the Answer,’ BreakPoint, 24 May 2018
[62]Monica Brands, ‘Real Love,’ Focus Article, Our Daily Journey, June 2019
[63]Scott Saul, Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgement, Isolation and Fear (Tyndale House, 2016) p. 23
[64]Scott Saul, Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgement, Isolation and Fear (Tyndale House, 2016) p. 22

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