"Social Connection" has long been one of the 6 Pillars of Lifestyle Medicine, and the major impact of isolation on chronic disease risk has long been documented in scattered studies. Now, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy acknowledges in an 81-page report that loneliness can be as dangerous healthwise as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, and he is urging new awareness and actions.
Key points about the problem:
Loneliness increases the risk of premature death by nearly 30%.
Loneliness is associated with greater risks of cardiovascular disease, stroke, dementia, depression and anxiety.
About half of U.S. adults reported experiencing loneliness BEFORE the COVID-19 pandemic had even occurred.
In the 20 years up to 2020, Americans' in-person time with friends dropped by two-thirds, with those ages 15 to 24 suffering the greatest reduction.
Those who use social media platforms for two hours or more daily are more than twice as likely to report feeling socially isolated as those who use them for fewer than 30 minutes per day.
ADDRESSING LONELINESS AND ISOLATION THROUGH LIFESTYLE MEDICINE
Our Sept. 30 - Oct. 2 P-POD Nutrition & Lifestyle Med. Conference 2023 covers these issues via two highly distinguished speakers:
Beth Frates, MD FACLM DipABLM is the President of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, and has been one of the key figures in developing its modern curriculum around the 6 Lifestyle Medicine Pillars. She has been an authoritative voice in describing the health consequences of personal isolation, and an articulate exponent of the positive healing potential that renewed connection can hold for individuals and communities. In Newark, she will present for her third time at P-POD, on:
"A Social Connection Prescription: Aren't We Wired To Be Interactive and Supportive?"
Michelle Dalal, MD FAAP DipABLM is a lifestyle medicine pediatrician who has chaired the Massachusetts Medical Society Committee on Mental Health and Substance Use, and the ACLM Pediatric and Adolescent Member Interest Group. She has lectured and written for several years about the need for healthcare practitioners to give pro-active attention in support of teens at heightening risk of alienation or mood disorders or even suicidal ideation, exacerbated by the impact of social media preoccupation. She previously spoke at P-POD on "Bolstering Teen Mood: A Nutrition and Lifestyle Based Approach to Manage Depression", and will present in Newark on:
"The Power of the Pause: A Lifestyle Approach to Teen Wellness" and a follow-up mini-lecture about teen mental health
POLICY, RESOURCE ALLOCATION AND ACTION WOULD BE SUITABLE SUPPORTING NEXT-STEPS TO FOLLOW THE STATEMENTS OF DESIRABLE CHANGE FROM THE SURGEON GENERAL
Here are two examples of what was stated by the Surgeon General in the section "What Health Workers, Health Care Systems, and Insurers Can Do". Realization of these goals would certainly help bring closer to reality, the lifestyle medicine ideal of regarding social connection advocacy as integral to effective holistic health promotion.
**Provide health professionals with formal training and continuing education on the health and medical relevance of social connection and risks associated with social disconnection (e.g., isolation, loneliness, low social support, social negativity), as well as advanced training on prevention and interventions.
**Insurance companies should provide adequate reimbursement for time spent assessing and addressing concerns about social disconnection.