Tackling the loneliness epidemic

May 28, 2023, 10:56 AM | Updated: Sep 5, 2023, 3:09 pm




SALT LAKE CITY – Loneliness is a feeling that many people struggle with, so much so that there’s a loneliness epidemic in the United States.

In the latest Let’s Get Moving with Maria podcast episode, host Maria Shilaos spoke with Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Brigham Young University and the Lead Science Editor for Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation, to learn why we have a loneliness epidemic and what we can do to overcome it.

The loneliness epidemic is a concerning trend

Over the past two decades, Dr. Holt-Lunstad has collected data on how Americans spend their time. What she noticed was that people were spending more time in isolation and less time with family and friends.

“We also have seen—over multiple decades—decreases in participation in various social groups and clubs,” Dr. Holt-Lunstad said. “It’s perhaps not surprising that these concerning trends are now showing up [with] as much as 50% of Americans reporting that they are lonely.”

Loneliness is not just an emotion

Dr. Holt-Lunstad said that we can still feel lonely even when we’re with other people. Similarly, isolation doesn’t always make people feel lonely.

Loneliness is a distressing feeling. We are social beings, so that feeling of loneliness signals our lack of social needs. It’s just like our other biological signals. For example, feeling hungry shows that we are lacking food in our body.

“Sometimes you can get stuck in a reinforcing cycle that may require additional kinds of help beyond what you might be able to get out of on your own,” Dr. Holt-Lunstad said.

Social connection is extremely beneficial.

“We have evidence that being socially connected is protective for survival … It has been linked to better health, better biological functioning—not just on an individual level, but also at a societal level,” Dr. Holt-Lunstad said.

Listen to the full episode below to hear the rest!

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Tackling the loneliness epidemic