The Loneliness Epidemic

Why So Many of Us Feel Alone—and How Leaders Can Respond

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What makes people lonely? And how can Christian communities better minister to the lonely? In The Loneliness Epidemic, behavioral scientist and researcher Susan Mettes explores those questions and more.
Guided by current research from Barna Group, Mettes illustrates the profound physical, emotional, and social toll of loneliness in the United States.Surprisingly, her research shows that it is not the oldest Americans but the youngest adults who are loneliest and that social media can actually play a positive role in alleviating loneliness. Mettes highlights the role that belonging, friendship, closeness, and expectations play in preventing it. She also offers meaningful ways the church can minister to lonely people, going far beyond simplistic solutions--like helping them meet new people--to addressing their inner lives and the God who understands them.

With practical and highly applicable tips, this book is an invaluable tool for anyone--ministry leaders, parents, friends--trying to help someone who feels alone. Readers will emerge better able to deal with their own loneliness and to help alleviate the loneliness of others.


Foreword by David Kinnaman
Part 1: Understanding an Epidemic
1. Lonely Americans: Studying Our Loneliness
2. What Loneliness Is: A Definition of Terms
Part 2: When Loneliness Defies Stereotypes
3. Age
4. Romance
5. Insecurity
6. Social Media
7. Faith and Churchgoing
8. Privacy
Part 3: Protecting against Loneliness
9. Belonging
10. Closeness
11. Expectations
12. Breaking the Cycle
Appendix A: What the Bible Says about Loneliness
Appendix B: Should We Look for a "Cure" for Loneliness?


"I have worked alongside Susan on numerous projects with Barna Group over the years. I am especially grateful for her careful, nuanced, and biblical approach to problems, as she demonstrates here in this important book. . . . If you're experiencing loneliness or know someone who is--or if you work in churches, schools, companies, or organizations where there are human beings (yes, that's pretty much all of us)--you should know what ideas are circulating about the crush of loneliness and the buffering of healthy relationships. Susan helps us to close these gaps."

David Kinnaman, president, Barna Group (from the foreword)

"If you're not aware we face a loneliness epidemic, you will be fully informed by the end of this stats-packed book. But Susan Mettes doesn't just highlight the problem; she also busts myths and offers a host of practical ways that leaders can help build communities of belonging. I'm eager to put these tips into practice."

Collin Hansen, vice president of content and editor in chief, The Gospel Coalition; host of the Gospelbound podcast

"I've never read a book that so eloquently elucidates the landscape of loneliness. Susan Mettes's analysis of our loneliness pandemic is as thought-provoking as it is practical. You will come away from this book feeling inspired and equipped to help transform loneliness into belonging."

Michelle Ami Reyes, vice president, Asian American Christian Collaborative

"This is an important book for so many reasons. Susan Mettes and Barna Group are to be commended for their myth-busting, data-driven analysis of loneliness. As a scholar-pastor who has spent much of his life studying--and trying to cultivate--Christian community, I found my assumptions about loneliness challenged at many points. But I also found much hope in the book's thoughtful suggestions for ways we can alleviate the sense of aloneness and isolation experienced by Christians and non-Christians alike."

Joseph H. Hellerman, author of When the Church Was a Family and Why We Need the Church to Become More Like Jesus

"As a single woman and a recent empty nester, I was eager to understand more about feelings of loneliness that I've been slow to acknowledge. The thorough research and insights Mettes offers, as well as a solid theological foundation, helped me to wrap my mind around the roots and remedies for the loneliness that is rampant in our culture. I highly recommend this book both for those who feel the sting of loneliness and for the ones who love us."

Margot Starbuck, author of The Grown Woman's Guide to Online Dating

The Author

  1. Susan Mettes
    Chad Bartlett

    Susan Mettes

    Susan Mettes (MA, Duke University) is a behavioral scientist with extensive prior experience conducting research for faith-based organizations, including Barna Group, Thrivent Financial, and World Vision. She is an associate editor for Christianity...

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