US Surgeon General: Loneliness as deadly as smoking
US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy released an advisory in which he calls the new epidemic one of loneliness and isolation.
In a report titled "Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation," US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy explains what he sees as a pervasive public health issue across the US.
In an advisory, Murthy explained that loneliness is "far more" than a bad feeling, rather a harmful thing for individual and societal health. He asserts that it is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety, and premature death.
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“The mortality impact of being socially disconnected is similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and even greater than that associated with obesity and physical inactivity.”
According to a study, loneliness can practically triple the chance of dying young. Poor social connections increase the risk of heart disease and stroke in people. In a 2022 research, Americans were asked how emotionally linked they felt to others, and just 39% responded positively. The advice makes mention to this data. The majority of Americans—50%—reported feeling lonely, according to recent studies, with young individuals having the greatest rates.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people aged 15 to 24 reported a 70% decrease in the amount of time they spent with friends in 2020. In 2020, the majority of Americans reported spending 20 minutes daily in person with friends, down from 60 minutes daily in 1990.
Involvement in the community shrank as well. 70% of Americans claimed to be members of a church, synagogue, or mosque in 1999. In 2020, just 47% of Americans were able to make the same claim. Only 16% of Americans, according to a 2018 survey, said they had a strong sense of attachment to their neighborhood.
“These estimates and multiple other studies indicate that loneliness and isolation are more widespread than many of the other major health issues of our day, including smoking (12.5% of U.S. adults), diabetes (14.7%), and obesity (41.9%),” the advisory warns.
Social media impacts loneliness
When utilized improperly, technology, such as social media, can also exacerbate loneliness. Teenagers reported utilizing social media in 2022 in a whopping 95% of cases, while in 2019, 80% of US adults reported doing so, up from 5% in 2005.
Although the advisory acknowledges that technology can help friends and family stay in touch, it also cautions that it “displaces in-person engagement, monopolizes our attention, reduces the quality of our interactions, and diminishes our self-esteem.”
According to one study, those who use social media for two hours or more each day report feeling more socially isolated than others who use the same applications for only 30 minutes per day.
“There’s really no substitute for in-person interaction,” Murthy detailed. “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?”
Workplaces, schools, community organizations, health authorities, and even technology firms are being urged by Murthy to address the epidemic of loneliness in the US. He is urging people to become more socially active in the meantime by picking up the phone when a buddy calls or joining a neighborhood organization.
According to a trusted source by the World Health Organization (WHO), five percent of individuals worldwide suffer from depression, and of them, less than 25 percent receive necessary treatment.
Experts believe that major depressive disorder (MDD) will be the leading illness worldwide by 2030.