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Highlights from the Surgeon General’s Brief on Loneliness

By Cindy Jenkins Extension Assistant Professor

Women Alone in Forest

Did you know the Surgeon General of the United States now considers loneliness a major health concern for individuals and society? From his personal letter in the brief he says, “It 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 (Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation, 2023).” The profound effects of loneliness can be felt by anyone and are best helped by a strong community. Here are some tips from the surgeon general on what to do if you are feeling lonely or socially isolated.

  • Participate in community groups: try to participate in at least two community groups per week such as religious, sports, civic or other groups. This provides opportunities for socializing, meeting new people, and feeling connected to a group.
  • Invest in relationships: spend consistent and frequent time with others. Make sure the time is high-quality by reducing distractions.
  • Reduce distractions: especially when you are having a meal or important conversation, put your phone away. Make the time with your family and others a priority by focusing on them in the moment.
  • Don’t go it alone: if you’re struggling, look for help from others. Family members, friends, counselors, and health care providers can all be there to help you. You can also call 988 or text HOME to 74174 during an emergency to get connected to a professional 24/7.
  • Core values of connection: take time to reflect on how you approach others in your actions and conversation. Ask yourself key questions like how could kindness change this situation or what does it look like to treat others with respect?

Loneliness is complex and the causes are varied. However, taking action by starting with one of the steps listed above or another one from the Surgeon General’s brief will get you on the right track. For additional information check out some of these resources: