Isolation can cause premature death in the elderly, a risk that is comparable to smoking. It can be just as deadly as obesity (www.slate.com, "Lonliness is Deadly", Aug 23, 2013). It can impair your immune system and boost inflammation which can lead to many diseases.
We know that depression and suicide rates have increased over the years. Could loneliness be one of the causes? What causes loneliness?
I am a firm believer that our current technology is one of the main causes of loneliness. Now, more than any other time in history, we can be connected to any knowledge we choose to look up at the click of a button. We can "connect" to any celebrity and discover facts and some fiction I sure. We can communicate indirectly with friends and strangers. Therein lies a basic problem. We are disconnected from one of our basic needs: face-to-face connection.
There is a lot of research on the topic of cell phones and the resulting skyrocketing loneliness and depression (www.Sciencedirect.com, "Lonliness and Mobile Phones", November 26, 2013).
Communicating indirectly through the use of the phone does not satisfy the soul. We need to see the other's body language. We need to lock eyes with the other. We need to touch, to have a pat on the back, hold a hand or give a hug. We need words of affirmation. We need this connection to survive and thrive.
We also need to be connected to a larger group for our identity. Our family, community organization, church or social group can help us with our identify as a social being, to ground us and give us roots.
From the Christian perspective, God created us for connection - with Him, and with our family and our church body. We connect with God through prayer, reading His love letter to us and through interacting with other believers. Connecting to others helps ground us in our identity and keeps us healthy.
The more connected we are, the healthier we will be - both physically and mentally. I can still picture the movie we watched in my "Abnormal Psychology" class decades ago. The researchers wanted to "measure" how important the mother-child relationship is. They used Rhesus monkeys to test their theory. One particular baby monkey had a wire mesh "mom". Later in the movie they showed the devastating effects on this baby monkey. It rarely felt confident enough to venture away from this pathetic "mother". Every little noise or distraction terrified this little monkey. It was heartbreaking to watch this living creature suffer the consequences of isolation and being deprived of our basic need for connection, which our expression of love.
That's the bottom line, connection is how we feel loved. The Beatles had a song that said, "Love is all you need." Stay connected face-to-face and you will feel loved and have a healthy life!