Loneliness rivals smoking as threat to health

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

If you’ve been looking down your nose at folks gathered around a designated outdoor smoking area having a cigarette, maybe you’d better look again.

Yes, they’re taking a drag of nicotine and associated carcinogens, but they’re also chatting and sharing their concerns with fellow tobacco addicts.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, social interaction might be just as beneficial to their health as ending the smoking habit.

It’s not surprising that loneliness is a topic of interest as most of us slowly recover from the COVID pandemic, but it’s shocking just how unhealthy loneliness can be, according to the 81-page report issued by Dr. Vivek Murthy, America’s official top doctor, on Tuesday

Loneliness is just as deadly as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and costs the health industry billions of dollars a year, he said.

Feelings of isolation are nothing new, as people have become less and less interested in going to church, belonging to a social or service club, or even interacting with relatives for years.

But COVID intensified the problem as schools and workplaces shut down and working at home became more commonplace. The surgeon general reported people have fewer friends, and spent about 20 minutes a day in person with friends, down from an hour 20 years earlier. For people ages 15 to 24, that time dropped 70%, with technology likely playing a major role.

Stop smoking if you can, of course, but there are even easier steps you can take to combat loneliness.

1. Connect with others: Reach out to family members, friends, or acquaintances and schedule a get-together. You could also consider joining a local club or organization that aligns with your interests.

2. Volunteer: Volunteering can be a great way to meet new people and make a positive impact in your community.

3. Engage in activities you enjoy: Engage in activities that bring you joy, such as reading, cooking, gardening, or exercise. Joining a class or group that shares your interests can also help you connect with others who have similar passions.

4. Seek professional help: If you’re struggling with loneliness and it’s affecting your mental health, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor.

5. Adopt a pet: Pets can provide companionship and bring joy to your life. Consider adopting a pet from a local animal shelter or rescue organization.

Remember, it’s important to be patient and kind to yourself as you work to combat loneliness. Making new connections and building relationships takes time, so don’t give up if it doesn’t happen right away.

But, like giving up smoking, the effort to combat loneliness will be worth it, both for yourself and your community.

— If you or someone you know is having a mental health crisis, call 988

— For more resources on mental health, visit here.

— Read about the Surgeon General’s report here.

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    -- Posted by FNLYHOME on Wed, May 3, 2023, at 11:49 AM
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