Loneliness is as deadly as smoking, says the Surgeon General
WASHINGTON – Widespread loneliness in the US poses health risks as deadly as smoking a dozen cigarettes a day, costing the health industry billions of dollars each year, the US surgeon general said Tuesday in announcing the outbreak. latest public health emergency.
About half of US adults say they have experienced loneliness, said Dr. Vivek Murthy in a report from his office.
“We now know that loneliness is a common feeling that many people experience. It is like hunger or thirst. It’s a feeling the body sends us when something we need to survive is missing,” Murthy told The Associated Press in an interview. “Millions of people in America are struggling in the shadows, and that’s not right. That’s why I put out this advice to pull back the curtain on a struggle that too many people are suffering.”
The declaration aims to raise awareness about loneliness but does not unlock federal funding or programs dedicated to addressing the issue.
Research shows that Americans, who have become less involved in houses of worship, community groups and even their own family members in recent decades, have consistently reported an increase in feelings of loneliness. The number of single households has also doubled over the past 60 years.
But the crisis worsened dramatically as COVID-19 spread, forcing schools and workplaces to close their doors and stranding millions of Americans at home away from relatives or friends
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People ditched their friend groups during the coronavirus pandemic and reduced the amount of time spent with those friends, the surgeon general’s report found. Americans spent about 20 minutes a day in person with friends in 2020, down from 60 minutes a day nearly two decades earlier.
The loneliness epidemic hits young people, aged 15 to 24, particularly hard. The age group reported a 70% reduction in time spent with friends over the same period.
Loneliness increases the risk of premature death by almost 30%, with the report showing that those with poor social relationships also had an increased risk of stroke and heart disease. Loneliness also increases a person’s likelihood of depression, anxiety and depression.
The surgeon general is calling on workplaces, schools, technology companies, community groups, parents and others to make changes that will boost the nation’s connectivity. He advises people to join community groups and put down their phones when catching up with friends; employers think carefully about their remote work policies; and health systems to train doctors to recognize the health risks of individualism.
Technology has rapidly exacerbated the problem of loneliness, with one study cited in the report finding that people who used social media for two hours or more a day were more than twice as likely to report were more socially isolated than those who were on these apps for less than 30. minutes a day.
Murthy said that social media is driving the rise of loneliness in particular. His report recommends that technology companies roll out protections for children specifically in relation to their social media behaviour.
“There is no substitute for personal interaction,” Murthy said. “As we moved to using technology more and more to communicate, we lost out on a lot of that personal interaction. How do we design technology that strengthens our relationships rather than weakens them?”
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