The Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murthy released a report on the “epidemic of isolation and loneliness” affecting the country. The U.S. Surgeon General, has set a national strategy to promote “social connection.” This initiative is part of the Biden administration’s mental health efforts.
According to Dr. Vivek Murthy, about one in two adults in America report feeling lonely. This number has likely increased with the social distancing measures imposed during the COVID 19 health crisis. However, it is important to note that this problem existed even before the pandemic. In his report, Dr. Murthy points out that loneliness and isolation can take many forms. The report, before being a policy tool, provides a glossary with some key definitions to address the issue. It highlights the consequences of social isolation.
“The health risks are as deadly as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day and are costing the healthcare system billions of dollars a year.”
Dr. Vivek Murthy
The report also points out that scientific studies have shown that loneliness and isolation have a negative impact on physical and mental health. In young adults, they are associated with sleep problems, immune changes, and inflammation. In older adults, it is linked to symptoms such as pain, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and a shorter life expectancy. In addition, loneliness and isolation can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, addictions, suicidal tendencies, dementia, and have an impact on overall quality of life.
To fight against this phenomenon, the report then focuses on 6 major levers:
Pillar 1: Strengthen social infrastructure in local communities.
Pillar 2: Enact pro-connection public policies
Pillar 3: Mobilize the health sector
Pillar 4: Reforming the digital environment
Pillar 5: Deepen our knowledge
Pillar 6: Cultivate a culture of connection
This political commitment is proof that the International Federation of Petits Frères des Pauvres, and all the associations it brings together, plays a vital role in our societies. Since 1979, the International Federation has been fighting against the isolation and precariousness of the elderly. Today, the successive crises that we are experiencing encourage social isolation. The elderly, who are more vulnerable, are too often left alone. As committed actors, our mission is to fight daily to recreate this precious social link. To do this, home visits and group activities are organized. The international federation is mobilized throughout the world to fight this scourge. But this is not enough, as this report points out, the fight against social isolation is above all a personal effort to be made… Maintaining relationships, checking in, sending a message, meeting up to exchange.
Report link : Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation (hhs.gov)