Combating Loneliness

The New York Times’ Christina Caron recently published a piece reviewing advice given by the Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, on how to build meaningful social connections in an increasingly lonely world.

Americans have become increasingly lonely and isolated, and this lack of social connection is having profound effects on our mental and physical health, the surgeon general warned in an advisory on Tuesday.

Advisories from America’s top doctor are typically reserved for public health challenges that require immediate attention. This is the first time one has been used to highlight the issue of loneliness.

More than half of Americans are lonely, according to a 2021 poll, which also found that young adults are almost twice as likely to report feeling lonely as those over age 65.

So what can one do? Dr. Murthy’s advice is summarized here, if you interested, learn more at

Reconnect with people. To get started, take 15 minutes each day to contact a friend or a relative. Put a reminder in your calendar, if needed, so that it remains a priority. Your relationships cannot thrive unless they are nurtured.

Minimize distractions. How often have you caught yourself looking at your phone while someone is speaking with you? What about during meals? Do other people do this when speaking with you? For more satisfying quality time, put the devices down and give your full attention.

When people call, pick up the phone. Imagine your phone ringing. You see it’s a call from your best friend from college whom you haven’t caught up with in a long time. But instead of accepting the call, you decide not to answer. You tell yourself you’ll call back later when you have more time to chat.

Serve others. Studies show that volunteering can ease feelings of loneliness and broaden our social networks. Consider donating your time to an organization in your community, or offering to help your family, co-workers or friends.

Get help. Finally, tell someone if you are struggling with loneliness. It could be a relative, a friend, a counselor or a health care provider.