Growing mental health issues in teens have been well-documented in recent years, as has the discussion of how to help adolescents cope with depression, isolation and loneliness. In his book, Together – The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy discusses loneliness and the importance of creating a “people-centered” life and world. Many of today’s challenges, he says, are caused or made worse by disconnection. In fact, a recent Rotary Magazine article likens the health effects of loneliness to high blood pressure or smoking 15 cigarettes each day!
But in his December 7, 2022, blog post, “Giving And The Loneliness Epidemic,” Jason McNeal, Partner, Gonser Gerber, LLP, suggests an alternative approach to combatting loneliness:
“In stark and startling-fast fashion, Americans are choosing to be alone more than ever before.
…By 2021, adults in the U.S. were spending 58% less time with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, than they were in 2014…[and]…by 2021,… teenagers were spending 64% less time with friends and 48% more time alone… [with] numerous mental and physical health outcomes:… sleep disorders, substance abuse, neurological disorders, stress, anger, violence, anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.
There is… at least one non-pharmacological antidote to loneliness: the prosocial behaviors of volunteering and giving, [which]… are negatively correlated with loneliness…[and]… positively correlated with numerous mental and physical health benefits.
As Dr. James Lynch, psychologist, researcher, and pioneer in the field of health and human loneliness has stated, “One thing you get from caring is that you are not lonely. And the more connected you are to life, the healthier you are.”
Let’s begin 2023 by resolving to reach out to a teenager, neighbor, relative or co-worker who might be feeling lonely or isolated. Commit to reconnecting to our community through volunteering or charitable giving!