US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Tuesday declared loneliness an epidemic in the country and outlined a number of actions Americans can take to address the growing problem.
“Our epidemic of loneliness and isolation has been an underestimated public health crisis that has damaged individual and societal health. Our relationships are a source of healing and well-being that is hiding in plain sight – a source that can help us live healthier, more fulfilling and productive lives,” Murthy said in a statement.
Murthy issued advice detailing the consequences of loneliness, which include a 29 percent increased risk of heart disease, a 32 percent increased risk of stroke, a 50 percent increased risk of developing dementia in older adults, and even an increased risk of A premature birth can involve death by more than 60 percent. The guide — approximately 80 pages long — covers six distinct pillars of reconnecting people in the United States
Strengthening social infrastructure, like building more parks and libraries, and implementing policies that encourage connection, like accessible public transportation or paid family vacations, are two of Murthy’s pillars that he says will help to overcome loneliness. He also said that reforming digital environments is a pillar of his plan, saying individuals need to be aware of how online environments can negatively impact their social connections.
Other pillars of his plan include mobilizing the health sector, increasing knowledge about loneliness and social bonds, and cultivating a culture of connection. The advice said everyday practices, like being kind and respectful to one another, can help strengthen social connections.
“Given the significant health consequences of loneliness and isolation, we must prioritize building social connections with other critical public health issues such as tobacco, obesity and substance use disorders,” Murthy said in the statement. “Together we can build a healthier, more resilient, less lonely and more connected country.”
Murthy’s advice comes just days after he published an op-ed in the New York Times on Sunday saying he plans to publish a framework on loneliness. He also stressed in the comment that social connections must be a “top public health priority” in the country.
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