(UnitedVoice.com) – It’s no secret that human beings need contact with others. Studies have shown prolonged isolation has a negative impact on a person’s psyche. It’s a growing problem across the country and the surgeon general is now going so far as to call it an epidemic.
New Health Crisis
On May 2, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released an advisory titled “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation.” The doctor, who served under former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, in addition to President Joe Biden, wrote that he wasn’t worried about loneliness being a health concern when he took office in 2014. Then he started touring the country, and people told him that “they felt isolated, invisible and insignificant.”
Americans “of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds” told Murthy repeatedly that they were lonely. He realized the problem was much larger than he thought. This led him to determine that isolation is an issue that “harms both individual and societal health.”
He maintains the threat is not insignificant, explaining the mortality rate from loneliness is similar to someone who smokes 15 cigarettes a day and is “greater than [the risks] associated with obesity and physical inactivity.” His report explains problems that come with a lack of social social connection ultimately impact a person’s biological, psychological, and behavioral processes, which can lead to health complications, including but not limited to heart disease, strokes, and mental health disorders. The data points go on to suggest that isolation has the potential to increase the risk of dementia by a staggering 50%.
Even worse? The effects of the epidemic are trickling down to workplaces, schools, and other areas of life. Between 2003 and 2020, the average person saw an increase of 24 hour per month spent alone, 14 fewer hours per month of companionship or simple leisure time, 20 fewer hours per month of social engagement with friends, and so much more.
The numbers paint a shocking picture, and Murthy warns the risks posed by the problem are so wide reaching all Americans should feel an obligation to address it.
The surgeon general is calling on the country to work together to “mend the social fabric of our nation.” He outlines what he views as the six pillars needed to build an advanced social connection. They include improving community connection programs, establishing better public policies, improving the health sector, addressing technology and existing digital environments, education and public awareness, and most important, reestablishing and cultivating a culture that thrives on real connection.
Americans don’t meed to wait for the government to put massive programs into action in order to create change. Getting out of the house, even if it’s to speak to a neighbor, can be helpful in breaking the pattern of social isolation. He calls on people to answer their phones, invite friends and families to dinner, put their electronic devices down and truly listen to others.
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