Lack of Connection and Depression
In his book “Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression—and the Unexpected Solutions”, Johann Hari writes this: Social scientists have been asking a cross-section of U.S. citizens a simple question for years: “How many confidants do you have?” They wanted know how many people you could turn to in a crisis, or when something really good happens to you. When they started doing the study several decades ago, the average number of close friends an American had was three. By 2004, the most common answer was none. It’s worth pausing on that: there are now more Americans who have no close friends than any other option.
It is indeed worth pausing on that. Hari’s argument is that depression is more often than not the result of being disconnected from other human beings. Yes, some people may have depression that is biological in origin, but Hari’s contention is that depression has more to do with our lack of connection. When we don’t have what we most need—connection to other human beings—life becomes heavy and unbearable.
I would never claim to be an expert on the various causes of depression, but Hari’s argument makes a lot of sense from a biblical perspective. From beginning to end, the Bible tells us how much we need other people. In Genesis 2: 18, God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” At the very beginning of the biblical story, we are told that we were created to live in communion with others. In the Bible, everything is about a people, not isolated individuals. When we get to the end of the Bible in The Revelation to John, the vision is about a city—not isolated individuals—where all the nations and their kings will live surrounded by the light of the glory of God.
From the beginning the Church was called to be a community of people, deeply connected to each other, whose mission is to reconnect people to God and each other. In light of the lack of connection in our society, our mission has never been more necessary. However, we can’t give what we haven’t received. If we aren’t connected to each other, if we don’t have any “confidants,” how will we be able to offer anybody anything more than casual acquintance. How do we deepen our connection with each other? There is no substitute for time. To quote a friend of mine quoting his wife, “It is hard to feel connected to someone you never see.”
We are all pulled in many directions and there is never enough time. Maybe a first step is to identify someone with whom you already have a connection and ask yourself how you might deepen it. Our society is the midst of a crisis of loneliness. God has called us to connect people to one another. Let’s begin by making sure we have the connections we need.