Widespread loneliness in the U.S. poses health risks as deadly as smoking up to 15 cigarettes daily, costing the health industry billions of dollars annually, the U.S. surgeon general said Tuesday in declaring the latest public health epidemic. About half of U.S. adults say they’ve experienced loneliness, Dr. Vivek Murthy said in an 81-page report from his office.
Research shows that Americans, who have become less engaged with worship houses, community organizations and even their own family members in recent decades, have steadily reported an increase in feelings of loneliness. The number of single households has also doubled over the last 60 years. The loneliness epidemic is hitting young people, ages 15 to 24. especially hard. The age group reported a 70% drop in time spent with friends during the same period.
Loneliness increases the risk of premature death by nearly 30%, with the report revealing that those with poor social relationships also had a greater risk of stroke and heart disease. Isolation also elevates a person’s likelihood for experiencing depression, anxiety and dementia, according to the research. Murthy did not provide any data that illustrates how many people die directly from loneliness or isolation.
The surgeon general is calling on workplaces, schools, technology companies, community organizations, parents and other people to make changes that will boost the country’s connectedness. He advises people to join community groups and put down their phones when they’re catching up with friends; employers to think carefully about their remote work policies; and health systems to provide training for doctors to recognize the health risks of loneliness.
Technology has rapidly exacerbated the loneliness problem, with one study cited in the report finding that people who used social media for two hours or more daily were more than twice as likely to report feeling socially isolated than those who were on such apps for less than 30 minutes a day.
adj. 过早的，提早的; 早产的; 草率的，仓促的