This story was originally published by the WND News Center.
Not going to church may undermine people's health, and attending services helps, a new government report reveals.
In a statement that is stunning for both its content and source, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy commented on the epidemic of loneliness and isolation across America, calling that an "urgent public health issue."
"Research shows that loneliness and isolation are associated with a greater risk of heart disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety, and premature death," he explained, and is as bad for people as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
He warned that Americans have become disconnected from one of the sources of deep and significant social connections: church attendance.
"Religious or faith-based groups can be a source for regular social contact, serve as a community of support, provide meaning and purpose, create a sense of belonging around shared values and beliefs, and are associated with reduced risk-taking behaviors," Murthy said. "As a consequence of this decline in participation, individuals’ health may be undermined in different ways."
According to a report at the Washington Stand, he continued, "Membership in organizations that have been important pillars of community connection have declined significantly." Those include, he said, "faith organizations."
"In 2020, only 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque. This is down from 70% in 1999 and represents a dip below 50% for the first time in the history of the survey question," he said.
The report said the level of isolation in America came to a head during the government-mandated COVID-19 lockdowns.
The Stand said pollster George Barna found that during COVID, millennials attending church in person or online dropped by 7 percentage points, and he said that "has devastated young people."
He said polling shows that three of four millennials say, "I don’t know why I should get out of bed in the morning," and a majority confirm they're struggling with mental health, depression, fear and anxiety.
But a Wall Street Journal-NORC poll just weeks go said Americans who believe in God and value marriage are more likely to be "very happy," the report said.
Barna pointed out that part of the trouble is that Christian churches followed government dictates to close during COVID.
"Obviously, that has not worked out so well," he said.
Generation X members also dropped out of church attendance during COVID, and only Baby Boomers now are more likely to attend church than before COVID.
The Stand explained, "The correlation between a strong faith and psychological well-being is well-attested by social science. 'Young-adult Gen-Xers in the strongly religious class across the three measurements generally reported better mental health when they reached established adulthood than those in the nonreligious class,' reported a 2022 study by a team of analysts from Syracuse University. 'Findings suggest that religiosity may serve as an important resource for mental health in the transition to established adulthood.'"