U.S. Surgeon General releases Advisory and National Strategy to Advance Social Connection

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Key Takeaways

On May 2, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released a Surgeon General’s Advisory entitled, “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation,” highlighting the growing number of individuals in the U.S. that are experiencing loneliness, isolation, and disconnection.

The Advisory defines social connection as the number, variety, and quality of relationships and interactions and the ability of these interactions to meet your needs. The Advisory reports that social isolation among older adults accounts for an estimated $6.7 billion in excess Medicare spending annually, which can be attributed to increased hospital and nursing facility spending. Loneliness and social isolation is now more widespread than other health issues like smoking, obesity and diabetes.

Data cited in the advisory point to detrimental consequences of this epidemic on our health, citing that individuals with poor social connection are:  

  • 29 percent more at risk for coronary heart disease,  
  • 32 percent more at risk of stroke,  
  • 50 percent more at risk of developing dementia in older adults,  
  • 2 times more likely to develop depression and anxiety, and  
  • more at risk of diabetes and premature death.  

In addition to the advisory, the Surgeon General laid out a National Strategy to Advance Social Connection, the first of its kind to outline recommendations for all levels of governments, workplaces, health systems, community organizations and individuals on how to strengthen relationships and build connection.

Promoting social connectedness has tangible impacts across nearly every county sector – fostering healthier, more resilient, safer, economically prosperous, civically engaged communities. The national strategy has important implications for county governments, who will be integral to the implementation of this national strategy as administrators of health and social safety net services and drivers of the programs, policies, and physical environments that shape social infrastructure.   

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