The Epidemic of Loneliness

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Amadeo Brandon, Dr. Karen Liller, Truc (Jenny) Ho

Every year at holiday time, MidPoint produces a show on an issue that many people struggle with. Last year, we focused on “forgiveness and redemption.”  For many people, the holidays are the worst and most difficult time of the year. They are a time of isolation, loneliness, and depression. So, it seemed to me this is the perfect time to tackle the epidemic of loneliness that our modern society is confronting.

The US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy recently issued a report finding that loneliness is a serious public health problem. Loneliness and isolation is epidemic in the US, and it has been a growing problem even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately half of US adults reported experiencing measurable levels of loneliness which fundamentally affects our mental, physical, and societal health. It is causing significant health stresses in individuals –comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and it is an even bigger health problem than obesity, with greater consequences on our overall health. The lack of social connection poses a significant risk to individual health and longevity.

Luckily, it is a problem that is now getting more attention from public health agencies and governments around the world. The U.K. and Japan have created top-level government posts to deal with loneliness as a public health crisis. The Surgeon General’s report lays out a framework for a National Strategy to Advance Social Connection. It details recommendations that individuals, governments, workplaces, health systems, and community organizations can take to increase connection in their lives and communities to improve their health and quality of life,

Our own USF School of Public Health is one of the places that is taking on this problem and working to address it. On Wed. Dec. 6th, MidPoint hosted some of the students from the USF College of Public Health Activist Lab and their academic advisor, Dr. Karen Liller who talked with us about how we can confront social isolation and loneliness in our communities, and what is being done here, and in other countries to educate people about the issue and develop a public health response to it.

Learn more about the USF College of Public Health Activist Lab. You can listen to the show here, or in the WMNF app, or as a WMNF podcast wherever you get your podcasts.

 

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