AmiSight 5/15: So Many Connections, Yet So Much Loneliness
Although we seem to be connected to more information and people online than ever before, Americans are facing an epidemic of loneliness.
While the COVID-19 pandemic certainly added to the disconnect between colleagues and even friends and family, a report from the U.S. Surgeon General found that about half of U.S. adults reported experiencing measurable levels of loneliness before the pandemic resulted in social distancing and long-term shutdowns in 2020.
The report, "Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation," released earlier this month, says that not only does a lack of connection affect our mental health but also our physical health, including a 29% increased risk of heart disease, a 32% increased risk of stroke, and a 50% increased risk of developing dementia for older adults. In fact, loneliness can increase the risk of premature death to levels comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, the report finds.
But what about all of your social media connections and all the people you are connected to through your job? That’s a nice number, but it doesn’t necessarily negate loneliness.
"And you can feel lonely even if you have a lot of people around you, because loneliness is about the quality of your connections," Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told NPR’s "All Things Considered."
Dr. Murthy said a new advisory outlines the framework for a new national strategy based on these six foundational pillars:
Strengthening social infrastructure, which includes things like parks and libraries as well as public programs.
Enacting pro-connection public policies at every level of government, including things like accessible public transportation or paid family leave.
Mobilizing the health sector to address the medical needs that stem from loneliness.
Reforming digital environments to "critically evaluate our relationship with technology."
Deepening our knowledge through more robust research into the issue.
Cultivating a culture of connection.