Pena: Can loneliness kill?

LAST year, the Philippines was ranked as the third happiest country in the world by Gallup International, a United States-based firm. Fiji topped the list, followed by Colombia.

According to the survey they conducted, 86 percent of Filipinos said they were happy, two percent unhappy, and 10 percent were neutral. Indeed, we Filipinos are a happy and resilient people. In spite of calamities like Mount Pinatubo, super typhoons and earthquakes, we can still afford to smile.

Unlike us “happy” Filipinos, people in other places suffer from loneliness that is so severe it is considered a medical issue.

In the United Kingdom, a government commission was even formed to address this condition. A high ranking governed official, the Minister for Sport and Civil Society Tracey Crouch, was appointed to lead the office that will gather all stakeholders and tackle the problem.

Why is loneliness a government concern? It’s because of health care costs associated with chronic loneliness. One government document equates the health effects of feeling lonely to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Another research linked an epidemic of loneliness to early deaths across wealthy nations.

An article from the website mentioned that a lonely person is significantly more likely to suffer an early death than a non-lonely one. It quoted a study at Brigham Young University where an influential meta-analysis of scientific literature on the subject was conducted. The research found that social isolation increases the risk of death by an astounding ~30 percent, and some estimates have it as high as 60 percent.

It’s ironic that in spite of modern communications, the internet and social media which made interaction with people from all over the world easier, many people suffer from loneliness. Though we are connected more than ever, our relationships are becoming impersonal and superficial. We are in the world of texts and tweets.

To combat loneliness, make time for relationships and nurture these relationships. Spend precious moments with your family. Bond with friends, neighbors, and classmates. Weekends are family time. Our ‘barkada’ of 38 years makes it a point to meet at least once a month or as often as possible. Though we have a Facebook page, my batch mates in high school meet regularly.

There are some loneliness conditions that need professional help. If it is caused by deeply embedded psychological experience or condition, an active relationship may not be enough. Seek medical help. But most importantly, turn to God who can heal all loneliness.

Here are some bible verses that assure that God is with us in our most difficult times. Psalm 46:1 - “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”. Psalm 147:3 -“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds”.

Psalm 18:6 - “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears”. Isaiah 41:13 - “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you’.
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