As if we don’t have illnesses such as cancer and diabetes to worry about, experts now say loneliness may be just as deadly.
United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy published a report this week outlining how this can affect one’s health. Murthy said in the 81-page analysis that chronic loneliness is just as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The situation is sadly a lingering adverse effect of COVID-19. Americans interacted less with their churches, employees, school, community groups, and loved ones during the thick of the pandemic. Stay-at-home orders forced people apart, and even when the world began to reopen, many continued to social distance. Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 reported a 70 percent decrease in the time they spend with friends, Murthy’s report stated.
“Loneliness is far more than just a bad feeling. It harms both individual and societal health. It is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety, and premature death,” he explained. He’d later add that humans are biologically wired to interact with others. Such isolation, as seen with COVID-19 and after, will continue to take a toll on Americans if action is not taken.
NEW: Today, I released a Surgeon General's Advisory on the epidemic of loneliness and isolation facing our country, the destructive impacts it has on our collective health, and the extraordinary healing power of our relationships. https://t.co/P9RnZkLr6G #Connect2Heal 1/8 pic.twitter.com/ZhaSuXTjoi
— Dr. Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) May 2, 2023
So how does one combat social isolation and reduce such a risk? Well, Murthy advises people who have been more secluded to “take small steps.” He suggests more group activities or one-on-one time with friends, cutting back on excessive social media use, and being aware of people online who demonstrate alarming signs of isolation. Murthy also wants people exhibiting these feelings to be open with healthcare providers about loneliness affecting their mental health. The doctor calls on his fellow medical professionals and lawmakers to conduct more research to help everyone better understand the lasting effects and the best ways to assist people.