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The Silent Epidemic – How Loneliness And Social Isolation Are Affecting America's Health

Written by: Denise Belisle, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Loneliness and social isolation have become an epidemic in America, with major health consequences, according to a new report from the U.S. Surgeon General. With the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating the issue, staying socially connected is more important than ever. In this article, we'll explore why social connections are essential for our health and well-being, and how we can maintain and improve them despite physical distancing requirements.

A photo of a woman looking out the window.

We all know the importance of staying physically healthy. We eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep to keep our bodies in good shape. But did you know that staying socially connected is just as important for our health and well-being?


The Surgeon General's Warning


According to a new report from the U.S. Surgeon General, loneliness and social isolation have become an epidemic in America, with major health consequences. Social isolation and loneliness can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and dementia. They can also increase the risk of premature death to levels comparable to daily cigarette smoking.


So, what exactly is social isolation and loneliness? Social isolation refers to the lack of social connections or interactions with others, while loneliness refers to the subjective feeling of being alone or disconnected from others. While these two terms are often used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. You can be socially isolated without feeling lonely, and you can feel lonely even when surrounded by others.


Even before COVID-19


The report notes that social isolation and loneliness have become more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people have been forced to physically distance themselves from others. However, even before the pandemic, social isolation and loneliness were on the rise in America, particularly among older adults.


But why are social connections so important for our health and well-being? The report notes that social connections can promote healthy behaviours, such as exercising, eating well, and getting enough sleep. They can also provide emotional support, which can help us cope with stress and adversity. Social connections can even improve our cognitive functioning, such as memory and problem-solving skills.


Strategies


So, how can we stay socially connected, especially during the pandemic when physical distancing is necessary? The report offers several suggestions:

  1. Use technology to stay in touch: While we may not be able to see friends and loved ones in person, we can still connect with them virtually. Use video chat, texting, and social media to stay in touch with others.

  2. Find new ways to connect: Take up a new hobby or join an online group to meet new people and expand your social network.

  3. Volunteer: Volunteering can be a great way to connect with others and give back to your community. Check out local organizations that need volunteers, or look for virtual volunteering opportunities.

  4. Stay active: Exercise is not only good for our physical health, but it can also be a great way to connect with others. Join an online fitness class or go for a socially distanced walk with a friend.

  5. Seek professional help: If you are struggling with loneliness or social isolation, don't hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional. They can provide support and guidance to help you improve your social connections and overall well-being.

Prioritizing Social Connections


It is important to remember that social connections are essential for our health and well-being, and we need to prioritize them just as we prioritize physical health. Whether it's through technology, new hobbies, volunteering, or seeking professional help, there are many ways to stay socially connected, even during the pandemic. Let's work together to combat loneliness and social isolation and promote a healthier, happier society.


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Denise Belisle, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Denise Belisle is the founder of Denise Belisle In-Motion Coaching. She is a serenity expert and positive intelligence specialist. She is an international speaker, online TV show host, functional medicine health coach, and Reiki master. Over the last 40 years, Denise has been immersed in all areas of health and wellness. She has been practicing mindfulness and meditation since she was a teenager and has developed great skills in the discipline of emotional and mental fitness. She works with professionals in their 50s and up who feel like they are on the hamster wheel of the new normal, empowering them to bring back the SPARK ✨ so they can rock the second half of their lives and shift from crisis to oasis.

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