According to a new survey by the health insurance company Cigna, the loneliness epidemic is so serious in the U.S. that most American adults are considered lonely, with younger Generation Z and millennial Americans being the most lonely.
WCCO's Angela Davis spoke with a psychologist about what leads to loneliness and what we can do to prevent it. Researchers used the UCLA Loneliness Scale, a tool to measure a person's loneliness based on a series of questions, in their analysis. About 27% of Americans said they feel that people rarely or never understand them.
"I can imagine people saying they don't use social media that much because they don't want to attribute their own loneliness to their use of social media". The Scale has a loneliness scoring system which ranges from twenty to eighty points, and Cigna recorded those who scored above forty-three as definitively "lonely".
People who scored 43 or more on the UCLA loneliness scale were deemed lonely by Cigna researchers. The average score was a 44, making most Americans qualify as lonely.
Doctors say loneliness can happen when you spend more time on the phone and less time having face to face interaction. One-fifth of respondents said they rarely or never feel close to people, and just under half said they didn't have meaningful relationships or felt isolated. Respondents who said they have more in-person social interactions on a daily basis reported being less lonely. In fact, single parents or guardians who live with children are, if anything, more lonely, at 48.2. "This report helps with the recognition that this can affect those at younger ages".
However, the Cigna survey didn't find a correlation between social media use and feelings of loneliness. Another surprising finding was that young adults with the highest rates of social media use said they had similar feelings of loneliness compared to those who were barely on social media.
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Loneliness has a significant effect on health, which means that coming up with a way to reduce it could have a hugely positive impact. "There's a blurred line between mental and physical health", says Cordani. Loneliness seems to play into that link.
The survey, done by health insurance company Cigna, found almost half of Americans say they sometimes or always feel alone. A wounded heart and lack of connection. We must change this trend by reframing the conversation to be about "mental wellness" and "vitality" to speak to our mental-physical connection.
Getting more sleep and more physical activity can help, as well as talking about it. "I would hope that with a large insurer like Cigna [releasing a report on loneliness], that it would start to be more on the radar of major health organizations but also actual health care providers".
Dr. Cheryl Bemel is a psychologist with Health Partners.
But the widespread nature of the problem suggests that it's systematic and may require more of a widespread solution, as opposed to an individual one.
Several studies in recent years, including ones by Holt-Lunstad, have documented the public health effect of loneliness.