The Power of Belonging
Harvard began a study of adult development in 1938. For eight decades they studied 700 men, many of whom are now in their 90s. Eight decades of research on well-being provided a surprising conclusion. It didn’t matter what socioeconomic background the people came from, or their triumphs or travails, what contributed to their well being was the quality of their relationships. Dr. Waldinger, the current director of the study, said, “people who are more socially connected to family, friends, and community are happier, healthier, and live longer than people who are less well connected.”
Not only are the conclusions of the Harvard study surprising, but our fundamental, primal need for social connection is going unmet. Last year Vivek Murthy, a former surgeon-general of the United States, called loneliness an epidemic, likening its impact on health to obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes per day. In January Theresa May, the British prime minister, appointed a minister for loneliness.
On May 1, 2018, global health service company Cigna released results from a national survey exploring the impact of loneliness in the United States. The survey of more than 20,000 U.S. adults ages 18 years and older revealed some alarming findings:
- Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone (46 percent) or left out (47 percent).
- One in four Americans (27 percent) rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them.
- Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful (43 percent) and that they are isolated from others (43 percent).
- One in five people report they rarely or never feel close to people (20 percent) or feel like there are people they can talk to (18 percent).
- Americans who live with others are less likely to be lonely (average loneliness score of 43.5) compared to those who live alone (46.4). However, this does not apply to single parents/guardians (average loneliness score of 48.2) – even though they live with children, they are more likely to be lonely.
- Only around half of Americans (53 percent) have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, on a daily basis.
- Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations.
“We view a person’s physical, mental and social health as being entirely connected,” said David M. Cordani, president and chief executive officer of Cigna. “In analyzing this closely, we’re seeing a lack of human connection, which ultimately leads to a lack of vitality – or a disconnect between mind and body. We must change this trend by reframing the conversation to be about ‘mental wellness’ and ‘vitality’ to speak to our mental-physical connection. When the mind and body are treated as one, we see powerful results.”
Both the prevalence of loneliness and its devastating impact on our well-being deserve our attention. Beginning October 7 Aldersgate will offer a seven-part series called “I’m In! The Power of Belonging.” We will explore how being involved at Aldersgate contributes to well-being through a community of belonging.
We will spend seven weeks discovering multiple ways we can provide a place for people to belong.
- Weekend of October 7: I’m In: Introduction to the Power of Belonging.
- Weekend of October 14: Included: Inviting Others in
- Weekend of October 21: Inspired: Joining a Community of Inspiration and Purpose
- Weekend of October 28: Instructed: Joining a Community of Learning
- Weekend of November 4: Involved: Joining Neighbors in Acts of Charity.
- Weekend of November 11: Integrated Ministry Fair: Finding My Place in Aldersgate
- Weekend of November 18 we will pull it all together by each of us selecting places to join with others in a shared ministry and celebrating God’s gift of community through our choir’s presentation of the Gospel Mass. It will be a spectacular weekend.