Half of Americans say they feel alone. Although technology and social media provide more opportunities to connect than ever, loneliness is such a prolific experience in our country that some experts have called it an “epidemic.”
Social media usage may actually increase feelings of loneliness and depression, according to recent research. A 2017 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that participants with the highest social media time usage were twice as likely to feel isolated, while those with the highest social media frequency usage were three times more likely to feel isolated.
An epidemic is defined as “a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time.” While loneliness might not be infectious, it is certainly widespread and it could be considered a disease because of its severely negative impact on emotional and physical health.
Loneliness and isolation are associated with a range of health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, depression and a weakened immune system.
WebMD reports that people who are lonely are up to 32% more likely to die early than their more connected peers. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor at Brigham Young University, says that “Lack of social connection has a significant effect comparable to other leading indicators of risk for early death.”
Chronic loneliness can be viewed as a public health concern that should be addressed as other public health issues are: through awareness campaigns, governmental resources and strategic initiatives from the for-profit and non-profit sectors.
VentSpace offers one option for addressing loneliness. The free online platform and mobile app lets users share their thoughts and feelings anonymously and connect with other people who are going through the same thing. Even a brief interaction with a stranger can elevate mood and help us feel less alone. For more information, check out the rest of our VentSpace website.