Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation

The top health official in America (The Surgeon General) confirms what we, as Frugal Prosumers, have been saying for years. One-Another (or as we call it, Allélón) is vital to our health and well-being. We interpret this to mean Love One-Another. As a matter of fact, we have always said without One-Another were are dead. He now confirms that it can lead to that.

Letter from the Surgeon General

When I first took office as Surgeon General in 2014, I didn’t view loneliness as a public health concern. But that was before I embarked on a cross-country listening tour, where I heard stories from my fellow Americans that surprised me.

People began to tell me they felt isolated, invisible, and insignificant. Even when they couldn’t put their finger on the word “lonely,” time and time again, people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds, from every corner of the country, would tell me, “I have to shoulder all of life’s burdens by myself,” or “if I disappear tomorrow, no one will even notice.”

It was a lightbulb moment for me: social disconnection was far more common than I had realized.

In the scientific literature, I found confirmation of what I was hearing. In recent years, about one-in-two adults in America reported experiencing loneliness. And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic cut off so many of us from friends, loved ones, and support systems, exacerbating loneliness and isolation.

Loneliness is far more than just a bad feeling—it harms both individual and societal health. It is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety, and premature death. The mortality impact of being socially disconnected is similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and even greater than that associated with obesity and physical inactivity. And the harmful consequences of a society that lacks social connection can be felt in our schools, workplaces, and civic organizations, where performance, productivity, and engagement are diminished.

Given the profound consequences of loneliness and isolation, we have an opportunity, and an obligation, to make the same investments in addressing social connection that we have made in addressing tobacco use, obesity, and the addiction crisis. This Surgeon General’s Advisory shows us how to build more connected lives and a more connected society.

If we fail to do so, we will pay an ever-increasing price in the form of our individual and collective health and well-being. And we will continue to splinter and divide until we can no longer stand as a community or
a country. Instead of coming together to take on the great challenges before us, we will further retreat to our corners—angry, sick, and alone.

Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community 4

We are called to build a movement to mend the social fabric of our nation. It will take all of us—individuals and families, schools and workplaces, health care and public health systems, technology companies, governments, faith organizations, and communities—working together to destigmatize loneliness and change our cultural and policy response to it. It will require reimagining the structures, policies, and programs that shape a community to best support the development of healthy relationships.

Each of us can start now, in our own lives, by strengthening our connections and relationships. Our individual relationships are an untapped resource—a source of healing hiding in plain sight. They can help us live healthier, more productive, and more fulfilled lives. Answer that phone call from a friend. Make time to share a meal. Listen without the distraction of your phone. Perform an act of service. Express yourself authentically. The keys to human connection are simple, but extraordinarily powerful.

Each of us can start now, in our own lives, by strengthening our connections and relationships.

Loneliness and isolation represent profound threats to our health and well-being. But we have the power to respond. By taking small steps every day to strengthen our relationships, and by supporting community efforts to rebuild social connection, we can rise to meet this moment together. We can build lives and communities that are healthier and happier. And we can ensure our country and the world are better poised than ever to take on the challenges that lay ahead.

Our future depends on what we do today.

The whole report is here.  It's worth the read. It could be one of the most important things you do for your health.

What is an Advisory

A Surgeon General’s Advisory is a public statement that calls the American people’s attention to an urgent public health issue and provides recommendations for how it should be addressed. Advisories are reserved for significant public health challenges that require the nation’s immediate awareness and action. 

This advisory calls attention to the importance of social connection for individual health as well as on community-wide metrics of health and well-being, and conversely the significant consequences when social connection is lacking. While social connection is often considered an individual challenge, this advisory explores and explains the cultural, community, and societal dynamics that drive connection and disconnection. 

It also offers recommendations for increasing and strengthening social connection through a whole-of-society approach. The advisory presents a framework for a national strategy with specific recommendations for the institutions that shape our day-to-day lives: governments, health care systems and insurers, public health departments, research institutions, philanthropy, schools, workplaces, community-based organizations, technology companies, and the media. 

This advisory draws upon decades of research from the scientific disciplines of sociology, psychology, neuroscience, political science, economics, and public health, among others. This document is not an exhaustive review of the literature. Rather, the advisory was developed through a substantial review of the available evidence, primarily found via electronic searches of research articles published in English and resources suggested by a wide range of subject matter experts, with priority given to meta-analyses and systematic literature reviews. 

The recommendations in the advisory draw upon the scientific literature and previously published recommendations from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Heart Association, and the World Health Organization. 

The findings and recommendations in the advisory are also informed by consultations with subject matter experts from academia, health care, education, government, and other sectors of society, including more than 50 identified experts who reviewed and provided individual detailed feedback on an early draft that has informed this advisory.