Loneliness Rivals Obesity, Smoking as Health Risk

This study (conducted by the health insurer Cigna) found that Facebook and other web-based communities – as well as other things in modern life – are boosting levels of loneliness in the United States. Loneliness, in turn, is undermining Americans mental and physical health. This has been labelled “the social media paradox” in that social media may have allowed Americans to become more connected to others than at any time in history but that many people report feeling more lonely and isolated than ever before. “Loneliness was found to have the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity” (Douglas Nemecek, MD, chief medical officer for behavioural health, Cigna).

The survey found widespread loneliness, with nearly half of Americans reporting they felt alone, isolated, or left out at least some of the time. The nation’s 75 million millennials (ages 23-37) and Generation Z adults (18-22) were found to be lonelier than any other U.S. demographic and reported being in worse health than older generations. In addition, 54% of respondents said they feel no one knows them well, and four in 10 reported they “lack companionship,” their “relationships aren’t meaningful” and that they “are isolated from others.”

The former US Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD advised that loneliness should be targeted in public health campaigns like those designed to combat smoking, boosting immunizations, combatting obesity and preventing the spread of the AIDS virus.

Nick Tate ( Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on May 04, 2018)https://www.webmd.com/balance/news/20180504/loneliness-rivals-obesity-smoking-as-health-risk

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