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Loneliness is bad for our health. The Pope offers the best remedy to heal a sick society: “Community-building”

Scientific research shows that man is a relational being. Loneliness and social isolation increase the risk of strokes and heart diseases by 30%. And our societies, prone to fruitless individualistic forms of isolation, further worsen this problem. The solution, or rather, the prescription to be healed, is not resignation or medical treatment. It consists in concretizing a tweet of Pope Francis: at a time lacking social friendships our challenge is to ensure community-building.

It is no longer just a matter of anthropology and ethics. Now, even medical science confirms that human beings are not made to live alone.

Loneliness and social isolation are not only a source of psychological and inner discomfort.

They can also be harmful to physical health. Far from being an exaggeration or hyperbolic image, these facts are confirmed in the findings of a recent research (published in the journal “Heart”) carried out by Nicole Valtorta, University of York, UK. The analysis of data on over 181 thousand respondents showed that in people suffering from loneliness, or living in contexts of sharp social isolation, the risk of stroke, heart attack, angina, (which incidentally, are also the main causes of death in rich countries) increased by 30% – compared to their peers who do not live such conditions. Moreover, the negative impact of loneliness examined in the survey is comparable to another study on the impact of anxiety and stressful professions on individual health. In fact, researches conducted in the past had indirectly linked loneliness and social isolation to a higher risk of early death, impairment of the immune system, high blood pressure. Now, however, the findings of this latest study place emphasis on the connection of painful loneliness with the risk of stroke and heart diseases.

In short, living without being able to experience authentic and satisfying interpersonal relationships is not a panacea. Not to mention the impact on health expenditure and welfare at national level.

It’s an emerging concern bound to become serious in the long term. Indeed, future projections of social trends, notably in Europe and in the United States (thus, once again, in developing countries), show a significant increase in terms of social isolation and loneliness throughout society. It is yet another “poisoned fruit” of our ailing society. This condition leads each one of us to be ever more closed within the meanders of exasperated, fruitless individualism, where there appears to be no more room for reception, sharing and solidarity. It’s sick because it promotes and spreads “fictitious”, “virtual” relational models, surrogate interpersonal encounters which no longer respond to the deepest needs of our hearts. It’s a sick society because it finds it increasingly hard to recognize and integrate those who are lacking the strength to do so on their own, who are often abandoned to their weaknesses.

It’s a society that is sick inside, whose ailments, unfortunately – as confirmed by scientific findings – are also physical ones.

Do we have to accept this situation and give up? Or should we rather join forces to recover, at all levels, the path that is most “natural” for us at all levels?

“In this age lacking in social friendship, our first task is that of building communities”, Pope Francis wrote a few days ago in a tweet.


It’s a healthy remedy: building communities. Restoring authentic encounter between individuals, so that no one may be alone again. On the condition that this much-needed exhortation may be followed by concrete action. Each one of us, in our small or large personal worlds, can and must be concretely committed to recreate, day after day, a piece of the mosaic of societal communities. We must return to give priority to the dedicated care of relational dimensions, to interpersonal relations, to the encounter with others – which, if lived in an authentic way – represent an opportunity for mutual knowledge, exchange, growth, self-accomplishment, along with the joint attainment of the common good. It is our deepest, most authentic nature. And for believers it’s also the human dimension which more than others reveals the fact of being created to the “image and likeness” of God. Last but not least – we should remember – it’s also good for our health!


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