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As Deadly as Smoking 15 Cigarettes a Day

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The U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, has published a report declaring loneliness to be a public health epidemic. Specifically, he’s stated that loneliness poses health risks as deadly as smoking up to 15 cigarettes per day.

Defined

Murthy told The Associated Press that “We 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.”

More specifically, the report, entitled Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation 2023, defines loneliness as “a subjective distressing experience that results from perceived isolation or inadequate meaningful connections, where inadequate refers to the discrepancy or unmet need between an individual’s preferred and actual experience.”

According to the report, almost half of U.S. adults report experiencing loneliness. Some of the highest rates of loneliness are among young adults.

Nothing New

While the recent pandemic created a great deal of isolation, the fact is that rampant loneliness existed well before. The rate of loneliness among young adults has increased every year between 1976 and 2019.

Yet, according to Dr. Ada Stewart, president of the American Association of Family Physicians, loneliness has been “swept under the rug.” Physicians are not required to screen for it, nor does it exist as a formal medical diagnosis.

Regardless, studies show that loneliness causes physical harm including inflammation, increased blood pressure, and elevated stress hormone levels.

Solutions?

In an attempt to directly deal with loneliness statistics in their own countries, Britain appointed a minister of loneliness in 2018, followed by Japan in 2021.

The fact is, technology, lack of trust, social isolation, lack of involvement in community or worship-based activities, and a host of other reasons have created a perfect storm of isolation.

We’ve Got This

While government involvement draws light and funds to the issue, the other fact is that this is a problem we – the public – can solve. Feeling lonely or know someone who is? Start with a phone call. Reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. They’ll be as glad to hear your voice as you are to hear theirs.

Then, step back from technology. Instead of reading the news on your computer or watching it on television, go to your public library or buy a paper and stop at your local coffee shop. While just being around people isn’t the same thing as meaningful engagement, it’s a start.

When you do speak with people, be fully present. Look them in the eyes when you speak with them. Listen to them. Having more meaningful interactions, even if they are limited, will help alleviate your loneliness and lead to more frequent and deeper interactions.

Perspective

More specifically, you can also volunteer, join a group, take a class, or buy a dog and start walking to dog parks and other pet social areas. These are just a few of the many strategies you can start to utilize to kick your loneliness to the curb.

At The 100 Year Lifestyle we’ve always said that no one wants to grow old alone. Relationships are an essential part of your 100 Year Lifestyle. You can’t live 100:100, at 100% for 100 years or more, only interacting with people from a distance. It’s time we all took responsibility for ourselves – and each other.

Maybe loneliness doesn’t exist as a formal medical diagnosis – because it shouldn’t be.

Get Help

Looking for a place to start? Schedule an appointment with a 100 Year Lifestyle provider near you today. Doing something good for your health and feeling your best will help you see all the possibilities that exist in all areas of your life!

 

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