Surgeon general: Americans must address loneliness epidemic

Updated: Jun. 1, 2021 at 12:25 PM CDT
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(CNN) - As Americans emerge from pandemic isolation, the U.S. surgeon general said loneliness is another epidemic people must now address.

From the pandemic, to xenophobia and racial injustice, this past year has been hard on many.

“Trauma, whether it’s physical trauma or emotional trauma, has an impact on our overall health,” Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said.

He said people may have been discriminated against based on the color of your skin, a name that sounds different from others or an accent that sounds different.

“Those moments are moments where we tell people that they don’t belong and that has a very powerful effect on our cohesion as communities, has an impact on people’s mental health,” Murthy continued.

Everyone has a different response to trauma. Murthy said some reach out while others isolate.

“That loneliness is linked to not only increases in depression and anxiety, but to shorter lifespans, to increase in premature death,” he said. “Increased incidences of dementia, to sleep disturbances and so many other conditions.”

However, Murthy said it’s our relationships with others that have the power to heal.

“We are all healers in that respect, and this is a time when deep healing is needed. And if we can get people to see themselves as agents of that healing through the power of their relationship, then I think we have a good shot at address some of the deep trauma that so many have experienced in our country,” he said.

As surgeon general, Murthy has made addressing the adverse health effects of loneliness a key feature of his agenda as the world emerges from a period of isolation.

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