It was one of Elvis Presley’s greatest hits, but the King probably didn’t know that being lonesome might be pretty bad for your health. In a recent essay for Harvard Business Review, former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy claims loneliness has become a widespread illness that deserves treatment.
Vivek Murthy doesn’t mince words when it comes to the issue of loneliness.
“The world is suffering from an epidemic of loneliness,” Murthy, the former surgeon general wrote recently in Harvard Business Review. “If we cannot rebuild strong, authentic social connections, we will continue to splinter apart — in the workplace and in society.”
Murthy believes that loneliness isn’t just a brief feeling of sadness that happens when you’re by yourself. It’s become a widespread illness that deserves treatment in the way physicians might tackle depression or chronic stress. And his proposed solution of having CEOs create tight-knit offices points to one of the lesser-known downsides of loneliness: It hurts job performance.
According to FMworld.com, Murthy hinted that loneliness is almost as bad for your health as smoking. “Loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in life span similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and even greater than that associated with obesity. But we haven’t focused nearly as much effort on strengthening connections between people as we have on curbing tobacco use or obesity. Loneliness is also associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, and anxiety, (said Murthy).”
This comes on the heels of new research, recently presented at the American Psychological Association convention, that showed a connection between loneliness and premature death.
At the convention, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, presented evidence from two meta-analyses on the effects of social connection on health. The first analysis looked at 148 studies involving more than 300,000 people and found that people with social connections had a 50% lower risk of dying early compared to people who did not have strong social circles. The other analysis of 70 studies found that loneliness, isolation, and living alone all had a significant effect on a person’s risk for early death. The researchers suggested that the impact was similar to the effect that obesity has on mortality rates.
“There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators,” Holt-Lunstad said in a statement about the research.
The Houston Chronicle added, “If you feel lonely or blue, even occasionally, it’s time to plug back into the world….If you’ve lost touch with former friends and family, reach out.Make the effort. You’ll reduce your risk of early death by 50 percent.”
Share your thoughts and let us know if you agree that loneliness can lead to serious health consequences. If not, why not? Generating meaningful conversations around the health issues making headlines is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!