All humans need food, water, rest and shelter to stay healthy. But what if we told you that social connection is just as important? That’s right—social connection is about more than having fun together. It plays a large part in keeping you healthy—emotionally and physically.
Studies show that as a nation, we’re becoming lonelier. Nearly 50% of American adults report experiencing loneliness.1 We might point the finger at the pandemic, assuming that social distancing and more work-from-home jobs have cut off some of our usual connections. But in reality, the problem existed long before the pandemic. Our use of technology over time has reduced our need for other people. We can work, play, communicate, date and learn while sitting in front of a screen. Doing these things in person is often more difficult and time-consuming.
Social isolation vs. loneliness
Social isolation occurs when someone lacks social connections. Loneliness is a feeling of being alone, no matter how many social connections you might have. That means someone with many friends, family or work connections can still feel lonely.
Health impacts of loneliness
Loneliness can have a significant impact on your health, both physically and mentally. In fact, studies have found that social isolation can increase a person’s risk for having a stroke by 32%.3 A recently published Surgeon General report shows that the risk of premature death is the same as smoking up to 15 cigarettes day.1 You’re also more likely to develop conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and dementia. Anxiety and depression risks may increase as well.2
Loneliness can impact anyone—young, old, healthy or ill. If you or someone you know is feeling lonely, try (or suggest) some strategies for healthier socialization:
- Get active with a friend
- Be kind to yourself and practice self-care
- Take a break from social media
- Volunteer or give back to your community
- Join a club or take a class to learn something new
- Talk to a doctor to better manage health conditions that might keep you isolated
- Talk to a therapist to make a plan that works with your lifestyle
Fending off loneliness and increasing your social interactions takes time. If you or someone you love is struggling with loneliness, reach out to a Teladoc Health therapist to chat. Together you can discover strategies that will help.
Published June 13, 2023