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News You Can Use
By David Bachelor, PhD
The articles behind this week’s headlines answer the question: Why does the Surgeon General, a New York Times columnist and a suburbanite Millennial have the same health risk as a 15-cigarette-a-day smoker? To find out for yourself, keep reading.
The New York Times printed an essay from Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in their April 30th edition titled, “We Have Become a Lonely Nation. It’s Time to Fix That.” The essay tracked the surgeon general’s own descent into isolation which started in 2017 during his first stint as the nation’s top physician. His peccadillo was choosing his job over time with friends and family. Dr. Murthy confessed, “Even when I was physically with the people I loved, I wasn’t present.” When his term ended, Dr. Murty was too embarrassed to reestablish connections to people he had neglected for years.
Syndicated Columnist Maureen Dowd took a less confessional tone in her April 29th New York Times piece, “Requiem for the Newsroom.” In her eulogy for old school print journalism, Dowd laments, “There were weirdos in newsrooms, and fabulous role models occasionally, and the spirit of being part of a motley entourage. Now, it’s just you and the little cursor on your screen.” After COVID, Dowd looked forward to returning to the bonhomie of in-person work, but she found the newsroom to be a “ghost ship.” The new generation of reporters preferred to work remotely.
On April 30th the e-newsletter Insider had the headline, “America’s Broken Housing Market Is Making Millennials and Gen Z Lonelier.” The article focused on the emotional impact that first time homebuyers experience when they purchase a starter house out in the suburbs. The article quotes experts who say, “A car-dependent life, more of a feature of less dense areas, is also a contributor to loneliness.” The article recommends more densely packed habitation for these Millennial and Gen Z homeowners but notes, “Communities with more greenery and shared space that facilitate connection are much more expensive to live in.”
Among the research quoted in this week’s headlines is a study from Brigham Young University which found, “Loneliness and social isolation have health impacts comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” Surgeon General Murty cited other pathologies of isolation as increased “risk of heart disease (29 percent), dementia (50 percent), and stroke (32 percent).” Who knew being an island could kill you?
It appears God does. In the second chapter of the Bible (Gen 2) God gives the ultimate judgment on people and isolation. When God created Adam, the first human being, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him” (Gen 2:18). Then God brought all the other creatures to Adam for him to name, and to see if any creature was a suitable companion for Adam (Gen 2:20). None of these animals were sufficient, so God made Adam fall asleep for a little surgery (Gen 2:21). While Adam dozed, God took the rib from Adam and formed Eve, the first woman. When he woke up, Adam recognized Eve as his perfect companion (Gen 2:23). God then decreed the joining of disparate humans into families as the plan for humanity until the end of time (Gen 2:24).
The New Testament has a command that might help the Surgeon General, the journalist and the Millennial end their 15 smokes-a-day risk factor. The cure to isolation-induced pathologies is: Go to church! Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing. Instead, let us cheer each other up with words of hope. Let us do it even more as we see the day coming when Christ will return.”