US surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy has declared loneliness the latest public health epidemic. In an 81-Page report from his office on Tuesday, Dr. Vivek Murthy described the widespread loneliness in the U.S as health risk which is as deadly as smoking, up to 15 cigarettes daily costing the health industry billions of dollars annually.
In an interview with Associated Press, Murthy said; “We now know that loneliness is a common feeling that many people experience. It’s like hunger or thirst. It’s a feeling the body sends us when something we need for survival is missing,”
“Millions of people in America are struggling in the shadows, and that’s not right. That’s why I issued this advisory to pull back the curtain on a struggle that too many people are experiencing.”
Although this awareness is important in raising awareness around loneliness, there wouldn’t be any federal funding or program devoted to combating this issue.
Loneliness increases the risk of premature death by about 30 percent and has also been reported to be a major cause of stroke and heart disease. It also increases a person’s chance of experiencing depression, anxiety, and dementia.
Social media is another tool that is drastically increasing the rate of loneliness especially among young people, ages 15-24. During the Covid-19 pandemic, people culled their friend groups and spent lesser time with friends and family. This age group reported a 70 percent drop in time spent with friends during the pandemic.
On how technology has affected relationships, he suggested that technology companies should design technology that protects children and strengthen relationships.
He said; “There’s really no substitute for in-person interaction,”
“As we shifted to use technology more and more for our communication, we lost out on a lot of that in-person interaction. How do we design technology that strengthens our relationships as opposed to weakens them?”
He also called on workplaces, schools, community organizations, parents, and other stakeholders to make changes that will improve people’s connectedness, stating the need for people to join communities and while with friends, people should spend less time on the phone, if possible put down their phones when catching up with friends.
Written By: Blessing Enechojo Abu