Loneliness is a silent epidemic that affects nearly 50% of Americans, according to the US Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy. In fact, loneliness has been found to be as dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. In an interview with the BBC, Murthy called loneliness a “serious public health issue” that needs to be addressed.
Studies have shown that loneliness is associated with a higher risk of premature death, as it can increase the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, insomnia, dementia, and other health issues. It also affects academic achievement and job performance.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only made matters worse, as social connections have been disrupted and loneliness has become more severe. Research has found that social networks have decreased by an average of 16% from June 2019 to June 2020.
To combat this epidemic, Murthy emphasizes the need for societal efforts to destigmatize loneliness and develop policies to improve social connections. He also calls for reducing data disparities, developing pro-social public policies, improving data transparency in tech companies, and reforming the digital environment. Personal efforts, such as turning off mobile phones and spending 15 minutes a day talking to loved ones, are also crucial.
It’s time to recognize loneliness as a public health crisis and take action to address it. By doing so, we can improve the well-being of individuals and the health of our communities.