Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation: Impact on Mental and Physical Health

Published July 26th, 2023 by Joseph Jacobs, PhD, BCBA-D

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy raises alarming concerns about the devastating impact of the loneliness and isolation epidemic in the United States (May 3, 2023)1. Poor social connections lead to a 29% increased risk of heart disease, a 32% increased risk of stroke, and a 50% increased risk of developing dementia among older adults. Additionally, lacking social connections increases the risk of premature death by over 60%.

Loneliness and isolation significantly contribute to mental health challenges. Adults who frequently feel lonely have more than double the risk of developing depression compared to those who rarely or never feel lonely. Childhood loneliness and social isolation increase the risk of depression and anxiety both immediately and well into the future. With over one in five adults and more than one in three young adults living with a mental illness in the U.S., addressing loneliness and isolation is crucial in combating the mental health crisis.

Proactively checking in on ourselves and loved ones is essential to understand and address true feelings. Societal conditioning often leads us to respond with a simple "I'm fine," concealing our underlying struggles. Engaging in honest conversations helps uncover the true emotional state.

To manage depression effectively, implementing practical strategies such as focusing on strengths, engaging in self-care, expressing emotions, setting achievable goals, and seeking support is crucial.

Additionally, seeking companionship and support by reaching out to friends and family, joining social groups, volunteering, and attending events can have a positive impact. Utilizing online resources, practicing mindfulness, staying active, and focusing on personal development are also effective ways to cope with loneliness.

Being mindful of social media use and setting boundaries helps avoid feelings of loneliness and inadequacy. By taking proactive steps and fostering a supportive community, we can improve social well-being and contribute to a more empathetic society.

If loneliness and isolation become overwhelming, seeking support from a mental health expert can make a significant difference. They offer a safe space to explore emotions and develop coping strategies.


Dr. Vivek Murthy's article

‹ Back