Let’s focus on overcoming the epidemic of loneliness. As technology dramatically expands our ways of communicating, loneliness has become one of the leading causes of premature death in all technologically advanced nations.Despite the increase in technology “connectivity” with cellphones, social media, dating apps, texting, email and digital entertainment… we are still lonely!
In 2018, Cigna released the results of a survey of more than 20,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and over. The study explored the impact and the underlining root causes of loneliness in the United States. The results revealed that most American adults are considered lonely, and that the youngest generation of adults is the loneliest of all.
The evaluation of loneliness was measured by a score of 43 or higher on the UCLA Loneliness Scale, a 20-item questionnaire developed to assess subjective feelings of loneliness, as well as social isolation. The UCLA Loneliness Scale is a frequently referenced and acknowledged academic measure used to gauge loneliness.
The survey of more than 20,000 U.S. adults ages 18 years and older revealed some alarming findings:
- 1 in 2 people feel alone or left out
- 1 in 4 people feel people really don’t understand them.
- 2 in 5 people feel that their relationships are not meaningful (and that they are isolated from others)
- 1 in 5 people rarely feel close to people (or feel like there are people they can talk to )
- 53% have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, on a daily basis.
- Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations.
- Social media use alone is not a predictor of loneliness
The Medical Consequences of Loneliness
Let’s focus on overcoming the epidemic of loneliness to reduce the potentially harmful effects of loneliness and social isolation on health and longevity. Loneliness raises levels of stress hormones and inflammation, which in turn can increase the risk of heart disease, arthritis, Type 2 diabetes, dementia and even suicide attempts.
CLICK HERE for my article on how social supports can save your life.
In one of my favorite books, titled A Cry Unheard: New Insights into the Medical Consequences of Loneliness by James Lynch, the author states
“communicative disease will be as major a health threat as communicable disease in the new millenium.”
Lynch admonishes us that “”exercises to improve communicative health”” must be undertaken with the same seriousness and commitment as “”exercises on treadmills to improve physical health.
Overcoming the epidemic of loneliness begins with heartfelt dialogue, which Lynch says, can be, and indeed must be, the true elixir of modern life.