Social Isolation Affects the Heart

Social Isolation Affects the Heart

We have mentioned before the role the Church has in fighting loneliness, including anxiety, depression, dementia, and thoughts of suicide. Now, heart specialists and the United States Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, have expanded the negative role of loneliness. Murthy says that “feeling disconnected from friends and family has the same impact as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.” According to the Cleveland Clinic, the physical effects of loneliness include a 29% higher risk of heart disease, a 32% higher risk of stroke, a 50% increased risk of developing dementia, and a 60% increase in premature death. The bottom line is that social isolation affects the heart.

The importance of being actively involved with people, such as in a church congregation, cannot be over-emphasized. “Going to church” for an hour once a week does not help much in dealing with this issue. The Church described in Acts 2:41-47 was a group of believers who met together daily. Not only were they together sharing meals and times of worship, but they addressed each other’s needs. Church leaders today must understand that being active in a church cannot happen if the church is not active. I had a brother who was an atheist and retreated from family and all social contact. Alcoholics Anonymous was his only tool to fight social isolation, and his participation in that program was very sporadic. He died prematurely of heart failure.

Hebrews 10:24-25 gives a formula for avoiding social isolation. “Let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another with a view to arousing one another to brotherly love and right conduct; not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together as some do, but encouraging one another…” Church attendance is declining worldwide, and much of that is because people see no value in what the Church is doing. Saving souls is important, but contributing to each other’s well-being must not be neglected because social isolation affects the heart.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: “Loneliness and Social Isolation Are Hidden Threats to the Heart” in the Cleveland Clinic Heart Advisor for February 2024 (Volume 24B).