U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., recently outlined a national framework to combat the loneliness epidemic in the United States. He noted four important facts about loneliness and social isolation:
- Being lonely is as bad for your long-term health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day!
- People who are lonely are 26% more likely to die prematurely of all causes, including cancer.
- The effects of loneliness on health are particularly dire for men, young adults, and those with health or mobility issues.
- More than 58% of adults in the U.S. report being lonely.
Thankfully, there is hope.
“Loneliness is curable,” said Lauren Bennett, Ph.D., ABPP-CN, a clinical neuropsychologist and director of neuropsychology at Hoag’s Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute. “There are things you can do to take charge of your social engagement, and if you are struggling with loneliness or social isolation, mental health professionals can help provide support and resources. You don’t have to struggle alone.”
To get help today, visit www.hoag.org.
Dr. Bennett shared four ways to combat loneliness:
Join the Club: “Make an effort to be social by reaching out to family members, friends, and acquaintances regularly,” Dr. Bennett said. “Join clubs, special interest groups, or other activities that interest you. Attend community events to meet new people.”
Volunteer: “Volunteering can be a great way to connect with others and make a positive impact in your community,” she said. “Look for opportunities in your area that align with your interests and skills.”
Breathe: “Take care of your physical and mental health by eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and engaging in regular physical exercise,” she said. Practice relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing to help manage stress and feelings of anxiety – which can accompany feelings of loneliness.
Get Wired: Social media use can sometimes contribute to feelings of loneliness, but technology is also a great tool for meaningful connection. “Use social media, video calls, or other online platforms to stay in touch with friends and family or to join online communities that share your interests,” Dr. Bennett said.
“I am grateful the Surgeon General has shined a spotlight on this important issue,” Dr. Bennett said. “The negative health consequences of loneliness and social isolation are not limited to mortality, as they have also been linked to a range of physical, emotional, and cognitive health difficulties, including cardiovascular disease, depression, and dementia.”
The cure for loneliness is social connection. Your doctor and Hoag’s health professionals are here to help.