On Tuesday, US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy released a public advisory declaring loneliness an epidemic, likening the mortality impact as being similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes per day.
The advisory notes that even before the recent COVID-19 pandemic, a shocking 1 in 2 adults in America experienced loneliness.
“The world is just beginning to recognize the vital importance of social connection. While the evidence of the severe consequences of social isolation, loneliness, and overall social disconnection has been building for decades, a global pandemic crystallized and accelerated the urgency for the United States to establish a National Strategy to Advance Social Connection,” the advisory reads.
Murthy’s 82-page report calls attention to changing social trends as well as the health and economic threats of social isolation.
“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, ” Murthy said.
Seniors are at a higher risk than most to experience chronic loneliness and isolation. In fact, an astounding 1 in 4 adults over 65 are considered to be socially isolated.
Among the most rampant health risks socially isolated older adults face are:
“Substantial evidence also links social isolation and loneliness with accelerated cognitive decline and an increased risk of dementia in older adults, including Alzheimer’s disease,” says Murthy. “Chronic loneliness and social isolation can increase the risk of developing dementia by approximately 50%.”
Murthy goes on to explain that “evidence consistently shows that wider social networks and more frequent social engagements with friends and family are associated with better cognitive function and may protect against the risk of dementia.”
In the Surgeon General’s Advisory, Murthy outlines 6 pillars for the American public to advance social connection. The 6 pillars are:
You can read more on the 6 pillars and the advisory in its entirety here.
Socialization is vital to combat feelings of loneliness, isolation, or loss of self-worth. But, how do you do it when you’re over 65? How do you do it when getting out might not be as easy as it once was? Here are just a few ideas.
Sites like Facebook or Twitter can keep you connected with family and friends who live far away. You can use these platforms to share pictures, write notes, and chat. You can find old friends or even new friends. Join groups to meet others with the same interests or hobbies. Follow community pages to stay up-to-date on the latest local info.
Like to work with your hands? Do you enjoy reading? Maybe gardening? Then check out your local community center or library for special interest clubs to join! You might also consider joining a local chapter of a national club like:
A part-time job can be fun, get you out of the house, and provide opportunities to make new friends while bringing in a little extra cash.
Exercise classes give you the opportunity to meet new people, get together with friends, and stay healthy. Not to mention, exercise releases endorphins, giving your mood an overall boost! Check out Silver Sneakers for senior-specific programs near you, or try out Senior Fitness with Meredith if you want to exercise with your spouse in the comfort of your own home.
Retirement communities are a great place to connect and stay connected with others who are around your age and love doing the same things. An active adult retirement community usually features monthly planned activities and outings. Many offer on-site clubhouses and sports clubs.
Learning a new skill can help keep your mind sharp. Today, many colleges offer online and in-person classes for older students! Some are tuition-free and some are discounted. If you’re interested in learning something new and meeting others, then start here!
“Social connection is a fundamental human need, as essential to survival as food, water, and shelter. Throughout history, our ability to rely on one another has been crucial to survival. Now, even in modern times, we human beings are biologically wired for social connection.Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation
If you’re looking for more health and wellness information, then start here:
Originally published May 03, 2023
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