Surgeon General Advisory: Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation

The U.S. Surgeon General has recently released an advisory that warns of the threats associated with isolation and loneliness in the United States. Titled Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation, the advisory describes the growing decline in social connectivity across the United States and details the mental and physical health dangers related to a lack of social connection.

According to the report, various studies over the years have shown that socially connected people live longer, and it is estimated that social connection increases one’s odds of survival by 50%. Lacking social connection, however, is as dangerous to human mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. People experiencing loneliness are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, and anxiety. This concept extends out to the community as well, as communities with higher levels of social connection are more “positively associated with a reduced burden of disease and risk for all-cause mortality.”

Loneliness is a growing trend in the United States. This was true even before the beginning of COVID-19 and social distancing, as nearly half of U.S. adults reported experiencing loneliness in the years prior. In response, the advisory concludes by proposing a National Strategy to Advance Social Connection that is built on 6 pillars:

  • Pillar 1: Strengthen Social Infrastructure in Local Communities
  • Pillar 2: Enact Pro-Connection Public Policies
  • Pillar 3: Mobilize the Health Sector
  • Pillar 4: Reform Digital Environments
  • Pillar 5: Deepen our Knowledge
  • Pillar 6: Cultivate a Culture of Connection

More resources related to loneliness and mental health can be found at HSDL.

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