A new study from Angus Reid reveals a “portrait of social isolation and loneliness in Canada today.” One portion of the study shows how women feel more lonely than men do. This study gives us a glimpse of how Canadians are doing in building a relationship with others.
Summary of the Report
- 6 in 10 Canadians would like their family and friends to spend more time with them
- Only 14% of Canadians would describe the state of their social lives as “very good.”
- Faith-based activities are connected to less isolation for people who participate in them.
Differences Between Men and Women
If you have observed the general differences between men and women for any length of time, then you will not be surprised to see how this report reinforces some of those differences.
- In 18-34-year-olds, 41% of men wish they often or sometimes had someone to talk to, but they don’t. This number jumps to 59% of women in the same age group.
- The older we get, the more these differences narrow. For example, 39% of men age 35 to 54 wish they often or sometimes had someone to talk to compared to 47% of women. Once you are 55 or older, the number is 32% for both genders.
- Women are more likely to feel alone when they’re with people than men do. This is particularly true for young women: 59% of young women often or sometimes feel alone when they are with other people compared to 46% of men.
What to Make of the Results
I find this study fascinating because people will often talk about how busy they are. Yet our busyness does not seem to have addressed our loneliness or isolation.
It is also fascinating because we often assume women are better than men at building friendships, but it seems men feel more connected than women do.
There are different levels of relationship. We can be in the same location as others but still feel alone. While the millions of people who attended the Toronto Raptors parade likely had a great time together, it is not likely this addressed loneliness or isolation.
We can also play on the same sports team or work in the same office. The friendships forged in these environments can be good, but they tend to be somewhat limited in depth.
What the Bible Says About Friendships
Compare the casual relationships we tend to have to the kind of friendships we see in the Bible:
- Humanity’s first problem was being alone, not sin. (Genesis 2:18)
- Friends are loyal and sacrifice for each other. (John 15:13)
- Friends sharpen each other and help each other get better in life. (Proverbs 27:17)
- Friends stick it out with each other in the difficult times. (Proverbs 17:17)
- Friends pick each other up. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
- Friends share life together. (Acts 2:42-47)
- Friends carry each other’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2)
- Friends confess sin to each other. (James 5:16)
- Friends care for each other’s families. (John 19:26, 27)
Part of the reason we can feel isolated or lonely, even in our hectic lives, is because we have a lot of surface level relationships. Those relationships will come and go based on projects, seasons of life, and more. Very few people have the type of friendships described in the Bible. These relationships are more rooted, require more intentionality, and a willingness to be vulnerable. It is easy to talk about wanting a closer connection with others, but the sacrifice to get there seems to be too high for many people.
But what if we feel lonely and isolated because we are missing out on the kind of friendships God created us for?
Changing the Story
God has already given you a social circle. You have people you see at work, school, in your neighbourhood, church, or at sporting activities.
You may feel already satisfied in your social circle, but the odds are that there is someone in your life who is feeling alone. Take the initiative to say hello, go for a coffee, play a game, and help that person know they are not alone.
There are many times where you may feel like you wish people cared enough to reach out and talk to you. The truth is, you are not alone. Maybe the key is for each of us to care enough to take the first step and reach out to someone else. Chances are, they are already feeling the same way you do.
Why Does This Matter?
You may feel like this doesn’t really matter. You are quite content with your life and don’t see the need to have solid friendships with others. According to the Mayo Clinic, friendships have significant benefits. These relationships will strengthen your sense of purpose and belonging, boost happiness, reduce stress, and improve your self-confidence.
So, instead of sitting on your back deck this summer, maybe you should think about who you will invite over for a BBQ.