Did you know that the mortality impact of loneliness is similar to the mortality impact of smoking 15 cigarettes a day and it is greater than the mortality impact of obesity and sedentary living??
Well, even I didn't know this fact until I came across these interviews of Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy, who served as the 19th Surgeon General of USA from December 15, 2014 to April 21, 2017.
What a beautiful definition of Loneliness he gives:
Loneliness is a subjective feeling where the connections we need are greater than the connections we have. In the gap, we experience loneliness. You can be surrounded by many people but still feel quite lonely if you don’t have strong connections and if you feel you can't be yourself with them.
He says that even in those cases wherein people have achieved wealth, reputation and power, the highs of those successes don’t last long, if they don’t have strong relationships in their lives, and thus they often feel hollow and lonely.
As for the physical and mental effects of loneliness, researchers have found that loneliness causes high risks of heart disease, dementia, depression and anxiety. It’s associated with fragmented sleep, so you may sleep the same number of hours as somebody who’s not dealing with chronic loneliness, but the quality of that sleep is lower; it’s less restful. Loneliness leads to shorter lifespans.
Dr. V H Murthy also says that contrary to most people’s assumptions that loneliness mostly affects the elderly, one of the greatest spikes in loneliness, depression and anxiety actually occurs in young people -- Gen Z and the Millennials. They use technology (for e.g. social media and mobile apps) in ways that either edge out in-person relationships or dilute their connections or chip away their sense of self and self-esteem. It ultimately harms their ability to connect with others.
Recollecting his personal experiences, he says "because of the stigma associated with loneliness, there are people who struggle who don’t talk about it and have trouble admitting to themselves that they’re lonely. As a child, I struggled with it. One of the reasons I never told my parents was there’s a feeling among many—and certainly, it was true for me when I was young—that if you’re lonely, you’re somehow not likable. Or you’re not capable of being loved. And nobody wants to feel that way about themselves. I certainly didn’t as a child. Admitting I was lonely was hard. I think that’s true for many people."
Reminiscing his years of medical practice, he says "I saw many patients come into the hospital all alone. Even at critical moments such as a major diagnosis or a key decision about treatment, these patients had no one they could call. And even at the time of death, I remember instances when my colleagues and I were the only ones to witness their passing."
Here's what he suggests to combat Loneliness:
It’s not easy to be vulnerable in the modern world where displaying emotion is often equated with weakness. But the reality is that we’re all struggling in some way, in some portion of our life. We may not talk about it, and we may be ashamed about it, but it’s true. Given how common loneliness is, it’s exceedingly likely that we all know people who are lonely even if they don’t express that to us. One of the most important things we can do for others who are lonely is simply to show up in their lives, to ask them how they are doing, to spend time with them, give them our full attention, sharing ourselves and being open and vulnerable. In those unguarded moments where we’re able to open up and be honest with others about what we’re dealing with, we often find that it not only makes us feel better, but it also empowers them to be open and vulnerable as well. These are all key components to strengthening our connections with others.
Well, these are some of the excerpts I've collated from these 2 interviews. To know his perspective in full, you can click these Links.
Loneliness: A Global Epidemic
Loneliness during COVID-19 Pandemic
And if you want to know more about Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy, you can click these Profile links
I've enjoyed reading these articles. Hope you do too :-)
That's all my penning for now.