US Surgeon General calls isolation, loneliness our nation’s latest epidemic

If you scroll through social media, you can find hundreds of videos of people talking about the crippling effect lack of human interaction is having on them.

This week, the United States Surgeon General released an 80-page report, calling isolation and loneliness our nation’s latest epidemic.

In a letter from the Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy writes that loneliness “…is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety, and premature death. The mortality impact of being socially disconnected is similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.”

Digging deeper into those risks, the report states that isolation can lead to a 29% increased risk of heart disease, a 32% increased risk of stroke, Increases risk of premature death by more than 60% and a 50% increased risk of developing dementia for older adults.

“Loneliness and isolation will accelerate dementia or bring on dementia. During covid and after covid, we just had a direct experience with it. Once you have dementia you can’t get out, you can’t cope with the world the way you used to, and your friends drop off,” said Beverly Sanborn.

Sanborn, a gerontologist with Belmont Village Senior Living, says during and after covid, she witnessed the direct impact between isolation and physical decline in older adults and says building that social connection makes all the difference.

“People need a reason to get up in the morning, they need to belong to each other. They also need some feeling that their life has some value and some purpose,” said Sanborn.

The surgeon general is laying out this six-step strategy for Americans to strengthen social connections:
1. Strengthen social infrastructure
2. Enact pro-connection public policies
3. Mobilize the health sector
4. Reform digital environments
5. Deepen our knowledge
6. Cultivate a culture of connection

For more on the report, click here.

To watch the news segment, visit CBS News Miami.