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The Results Are In With Dr. Sanjay Gupta | The Loneliness Epidemic

Sanjay Gupta Loneliness
October 31, 2023

This is a guest post by WWSG exclusive speaker, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

A new Meta-Gallup survey found that nearly 1 in 4 adults across the world have reported feeling very or fairly lonely — and among those reporting the highest rates of feeling lonely are young adults. The new survey, taken by about 1,000 people per country from 142 countries between June 2022 and February 2023, found 24% of people ages 15 and older self-reported feeling very or fairly lonely in response to the question, “How lonely do you feel?” while 27% of young adults ages 19 to 29 reported feeling very or fairly lonely. The lowest rates were found in older adults. Only 17% of people age 65 and older reported feeling lonely.

Over half of adults ages 45 and older reported not feeling lonely at all, while the majority of those younger than 45 answered that they felt at least a little lonely, if not very or fairly lonely.

The countries surveyed represent about 77% of the world’s adult population, according to the survey.

Earlier this year, an advisory from the US Surgeon General highlighted our epidemic of loneliness and pointed out the physical costs of being lonely, including increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Lacking social connections can increase risk of death equal to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

But we can also take steps to increase our connections and reach out to each other — whether it is reaching out to check in on a friend or loved one or joining a new club or meeting neighbors — we can strengthen our social networks to strengthen our health and the health of those around us.

Oftentimes, we can get consumed in our busy lives and feel like we don’t have the time to make those connections, but even the smallest outreaches can make a difference. One study from Purdue University found that people who made eye contact with strangers reported feeling less disconnected than those who felt as if people looked right through them.

So, take the time to just say hello to those around you. Instead of looking at your phone, look up and smile. Let’s get healthier together. On this Halloween, we can all lean into what actor Christopher Walken said as the Spirit of Halloween on Saturday Night Live last week: “It’s about camaraderie. Meet the neighbors you don’t want to see again on any other day. After all, you can’t spell Halloween without ‘hello’!” 🎃

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