The Loneliness Epidemic

According to the most recent statistics, loneliness is at “epidemic” levels in the US, with 46% of adults saying they sometimes or always feel lonely

  • Historically, mankind survived because we banded together and worked as a group. Our very survival often depended on being part of a tribe. When feeling disconnected from community, anxiety and depression arise
  • Internet and social media arrived when our sense of community was already waning, and social media gave the appearance of giving back to us something of what we had lost, friends and status being 2 examples. But it is not a proper replacement, as humans were not designed to relate to each other without face-to-face interactions.

The loneliest are young adults between the ages of 18 and 22. This age group also rated their health the lowest, which correlates with science linking loneliness with a greater risk for obesity, heart disease, anxiety, dementia and reduced life span. 

In fact, maintaining strong and healthy social connections has been linked to a 50% reduced risk of early death.

Similarly, emotional loneliness is linked with an increased risk of all-cause mortality.

Studies have also shown that people who are lonely are more likely to experience higher levels of perceived stress, increased inflammation, reduced immune function and poor sleep.

A 2011 study found that for each 1-pt increase on the UCLA loneliness scale,an individual is 8% more likely to experience some sort of sleep disruption.

Research has also shown that lack of sleep has the effect of triggering feelings of loneliness, so the two problems tend to feed on each other.

Surprisingly, seniors over the age of 77, an age group well-known for loneliness had the lowest loneliness score in Cigna’s survey; 77% also rated their physical health as good, very good or excellent, compared to just 65% of younger Gen X’rs.

According to HRSA, a panel presentation by the National Institute for Health Care Management a nonprofit research firm for the health insurance industry revealed social isolation among seniors is costing the federal government $6.7-B each year in added healthcare spending, as “poor social relationships” are associated with a 29% higher risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.

Research by the AARP Foundation, an organization dedicated to empowering American seniors presents a similar picture.

In its Y 2018 survey, “Loneliness and Social Connections,” the AARP reports that 35% of adults over 45 struggle with loneliness. Among those making less than $25,000 a year, the loneliness ratio is 1 in 2.

Aside from financial concerns, a diagnosis of depression or anxiety, living in an urban community and the increased use of technology for communication are identified as factors that increase feelings of loneliness.

The Big Q: How many close friends do you have that you can turn to in a crisis?

The most common answer in the past used to be 5, today, the most common answer is “none.”

Fully 50% of Americans also say that nobody really knows them well. Historically, mankind survived because we banded together and worked as a group. Our very survival often depended on being part of a tribe.

Without a tribe, people get depressed and anxious for a reason. We are the 1st humans ever, in the history of our species to try to disband our tribes, and it is making us feel really bad.

The holistic fix: bring people together and they begin to care about each other, to solve each other’s problems, as in a garden, the garden begins to bloom, the gardners begin to bloom.

Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively