On 3 May 2023, the Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murthy, issued an advisory calling attention to the public health crisis of loneliness and social isolation in America. He calls it an epidemic that preceded the Covid-19 pandemic.
What would loneliness and isolation do? Here are some numbers, ” a 29% increased risk of heart disease, a 32% increased risk of stroke, and a 50% increased risk of developing dementia for older adults. Additionally, lacking social connection increases risk of premature death by more than 60%.” [source: HHS]
Sounds serious? You bet. In addition, Dr. Murthy also lays out a 6 prong strategy that could advance our social connection. They are summarized below:
- public infrastructure like investing in parks, libraries, playgrounds, community center
- pro-connection policies such as accessible public transportation, paid family leave, community building projects
- healthcare provider engagement to identify and track the epidemic and intervene early
- social media & mobile technology as enablers (e.g. promote connection) and not detractors
- research on the effect of social disconnection, resulting risks, and preventive options
- cultural of connection as daily practice at grass-root level
How feasible do you think these strategy can be implemented?
You can build it, but will they come?
I’ve seen some programs about this on PBS.
One comment that stuck with me described loneliness as the difference between how social you are and how social you wish you were or think you should be.
It’s about perception.
Some people are perfectly happy alone or with little social interaction. Some people are always trying to “keep up with the Jones” and what they see other people doing on social media.
If we can stop comparing ourselves to everyone else and perhaps try to get out a bit more, we may find our happy place.
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