A new 81-page report from Murthy's office warned that about half of adults in the U.S. have experienced loneliness and that this isolation is just as dangerous as people drinking or smoking excessively. (Related: GLOOM BLOOM: Depression rates in the US hit a record high, Gallup poll shows.)
"We now know that loneliness is a common feeling that many people experience. It's like hunger or thirst. It's a feeling the body sends us when something we need for survival is missing," said Murthy in an interview with the Associated Press. "Millions of people in America are struggling in the shadows, and that's not right. That's why I issued this advisory to pull back the curtain on a struggle that too many people are experiencing."
Murthy primarily blamed social media for driving the increase in loneliness, with his office's report claiming that Big Tech companies should roll out programs to protect children.
"There's really no substitute for in-person interaction," said Murthy. "As we shifted to use technology more and more for our communication, we lost out on a lot of that in-person interaction. How do we design technology that strengthens our relationships as opposed to weaken them?"
Murthy made no mention of how the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown protocols may have affected feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression.
Research shows that the main reason the loneliness crisis surged is due to lockdowns that forced schools and workplaces to shut their doors and tens of millions of Americans to isolate at home away from friends and loved ones.
In his report, Murthy noted that loneliness "is far more than just a bad feeling," and it harms not only the person's health but also the health of society at large.
Research presented by Murthy's office noted that loneliness increases the risk of premature death by nearly 30 percent, with the report revealing that those with poor social relationships also had a greater risk of stroke and heart disease. Furthermore, loneliness and social isolation increase a person's likelihood of experiencing depression, anxiety and dementia.
The report also claims that social isolation poses a greater risk to health than obesity and physical inactivity and that it permeates all aspects of society from schools and workplaces to the economy and civil society.
The surgeon general is calling on workplaces, schools, Big Tech companies, community organizations, parents and other people to make changes that will boost the country's connectedness to properly tackle loneliness and social isolation.
He has advised people to join community groups and to put down their phones when catching up with friends. He has urged employers to rethink their remote work policies and has asked healthcare workers to provide proper training for doctors and other practitioners to recognize the health risks of loneliness.
Visit BeatDepression.news for more stories about mental health and the effects of depression.
Watch Dr. Pam Popper explaining the connection between loneliness and health below.