Report: ‘Loneliness Epidemic’ in America Not as Pronounced as Some Claim

Being part of a religious community, interacting regularly with neighbors are associated with lower levels of loneliness

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Beneath the apparent social divisions in the United States, most Americans "still trust in the goodness of their communities, believe in the American dream, and prioritize family and freedom over materialism," a new study from the American Enterprise Institute found.

The "Survey on Society and Community" (SCS) found that although about one-third of Americans say that they are sometimes lonely (and 10 percent say they are often lonely), of this demographic, about 75 percent say they still have at least one person to whom they feel close and can rely upon.

The results offer a more nuanced view of loneliness in the United States as compared to other recent studies diagnosing America with a "loneliness epidemic." Researchers note the "epidemic" descriptor "may be exaggerated," and while the SCS reveals "loneliness is a problem for many in America. It also reveals a few factors that reduce loneliness."

The study shows those who belong to religious organizations report they do not feel lonely as often as those who do not associate with any religious group. Of these, the study found that 78 percent of people in a church community are "socially connected," compared to the 64 percent of nonmembers who fit in the same category.

"When asked if they feel completely alone, 46 percent of religious respondents say ‘never,' compared with 38 percent of those for whom religious faith is not important," the study said. "Thirty-seven percent of religious people say they never feel isolated from others, compared to 25 percent of those for whom faith is not important."

The SCS was based on survey data collected from 2,411 Americans between the ages of 18-70 in the summer of 2018.

The study, addressing a separate question of "social capital, civic health, and quality of life in the United States," found that 73 percent of Americans feel satisfied with the state of their local communities compared with the only 43 percent who feel the same way about the state of the country. Additionally, the study found that 75 percent of people say they derive a sense of community from their city and 71 percent say they get it from their neighborhood. In contrast, only 64 percent claim to derive community from those who share their political beliefs and only 58 percent say they find community in those who share their ethnic background.

Researchers also reported that eight in 10 Americans believe they are living the "American dream" or are on the path to living it. They found that most Americans believe their communities are faring well.

"Most Americans think their communities are faring well and that the American dream is within reach. Friends and neighborhoods are more prevalent sources of community for Americans than ethnic and ideological identities are. More people regard freedom and family as essential elements of the American dream than becoming wealthy or owning a home," the study reported. "While too many people experience feelings of loneliness, most people, including those who feel lonely at times, have people to rely on in their lives. We might just be doing better as a society than we think."