America has a loneliness crisis that needs to be addressed rather than ignored.
The U.S. surgeon general recently declared widespread loneliness the latest public health epidemic sweeping across the nation.
On Tuesday, Dr. Vivek Murthy released a report that suggests almost half of U.S. adults experience some form of loneliness and says the health risks posed could be as deadly as smoking a dozen cigarettes daily.
According to Murthy’s report, loneliness increases the risk of premature death by nearly 30 percent. Poor social connections can also lead to a greater risk of stroke, heart disease, depression, anxiety and dementia.
Smaller social network size is also associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and of other diabetic complications including heart attacks and kidney disease.
“We now know that loneliness is a common feeling that many people experience. It’s like hunger or thirst. It’s a feeling the body sends us when something we need for survival is missing,” Murthy told AP during an interview. “Millions of people in America are struggling in the shadows, and that’s not right. That’s why I issued this advisory to pull back the curtain on a struggle that too many people are experiencing.”
Loneliness has been on the rise since COVID-19 changed the way we socially interact with friends, family and colleagues. Schools and workplaces shut down, and Americans began to build their lives around isolation. During 2020, Americans spent about 20 minutes a day in person with friends, down from 60 minutes a day just two decades earlier.
Social media has also played a huge role in Americans feeling increasingly lonely.
According to the report, people who used social media for two hours or more daily were more than twice as likely to report feeling socially isolated than those who were on such apps for less than 30 minutes a day.
Murthy also pointed the finger at the tech companies saying they should roll out protections for children when it comes to their social behavior.
“There’s really no substitute for in-person interaction,” Murthy told AP. “As we shifted to use technology more and more for our communication, we lost out on a lot of that in-person interaction. How do we design technology that strengthens our relationships as opposed to weaken them?”
To read the full report from the U.S. surgeon general click here.
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