Skip to content

Loneliness is a health hazard

Dr. Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General, Issues Call for Action on Public Health Crisis and Outlines Framework for National Strategy to Promote Social Connection.

U.S Surgeon General Vivek Murthy (Image - Twitter @/surgeon_general)

The U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, issued a warning highlighting the public health crisis of loneliness, isolation, and social isolation in the country. The report from the U.S. Department of Health and Services cites recent studies demonstrating that, even before the start of the COVID-19 epidemic, over half of American adults reported feeling lonely regularly.

It emphasizes that a lack of social connection can pose considerable health hazards, as loneliness can increase the risk of early death by 26% and social isolation by 29%, according to a meta-analysis. The study also found a link between a lack of social connections and a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, anxiety, depression, and dementia. A systematic review included in the recommendation also revealed that one of the main causes of self-harm was loneliness.

“Given the profound consequences of loneliness and isolation, we have an opportunity, an obligation, to make the same investments in addressing social connection that we have made in addressing tobacco use, obesity and the addiction crisis,” Dr Murthy said.

The hazards to one's health that come with loneliness and isolation can be decreased by social interaction. According to one study, those who frequently confide in others have up to 15% lower likelihood of developing depression than those who don't, especially if they've had traumatic or difficult life situations in the past.

The advice contains recommendations for people, governments, businesses, health systems, and community organizations that wish to develop social connections and enhance general health. It lays out the foundation for a National Strategy to Advance Social Connection. The United States has never before used this kind of tactic.

It also includes training for medical professionals to enable intervention if a patient is in danger of loneliness and its serious negative effects on their health. Additionally, it suggests future research into digital environments, especially how genuine connections could be hampered by online interactions. Finally, the recommendation urges the development of a culture of connection, noting that informal contacts from daily life have a big impact on social connection.