The following is an excerpt from Rev. Sharon Wylie’s sermon “Sharing the Good News of Unitarian Universalism” offered on February 20, 2022:
A 2020 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine points out that for adults aged 45 and older, more than one-third feel lonely and for adults aged 65 and older, nearly one-fourth are considered to be socially isolated. These are enormous numbers of people. Older adults are at increased risk for loneliness and social isolation because they are more likely to face factors such as living alone, the loss of family or friends, chronic illness, and hearing loss.
I think we should assume that any of us aged 45 or older knows multiple people who feel lonely and are socially isolated.
The impacts of loneliness and social isolation on older adults are well studied and include a litany of health risks, including dementia, heart failure, and stroke.
The impacts on young adults are less documented, but there is evidence that suggests that young adults feel even lonelier and are more socially isolated than their elders. This was true even before the pandemic, and we can certainly imagine that things have gotten worse in the past two years, not better.
Attendance and participation in religious community is one of the behaviors that provides social connection and protects against loneliness.
It is hard for us to have good information about the effects of the pandemic we are still living through, but there is good evidence that we are seeing significant increases in people experiencing anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and domestic violence, as well as increased loneliness and isolation.
So when I told you a few minutes ago that there are people in our lives desperately in need of a religious community like ours, I was not exaggerating. It is painful that in an era when many people are experiencing loneliness, mental health struggles, personal crises, and oh yes, coping with the trauma of living through a global pandemic—it is painful when more people than ever could use a church community to lean on, that more people than ever are NOT part of religious community. In 2020, for the first time ever in the United States, less than half of people surveyed reported belonging to a church, synagogue, or mosque.
You can listen to the rest of the sermon on Chalice’s YouTube channel.
Blessings and love to you,