Former Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy warned in the Harvard Business Review that loneliness is an epidemic that has doubled since the 1980s.
40% of U.S. adults feel its grip, he wrote. Fewer people have confidants and 50% of CEOs feel lonely at work.
Vivek warned that loneliness and weak social connections shorten life the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and more than obesity does.
Loneliness is associated with cardiovascular disease, dementia and depression. It causes stress and elevations of the key stress hormone, cortisol. It is linked to excessive inflammation which damages blood vessels and tissues, increasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, joint disease, depression, obesity, and premature death. It also affects the brain’s prefrontal cortex and reduces performance, creativity and decision-making.
Conversely, Gallup researchers found that strong social connections at work increased productivity and reduced illness.
Vivek blames the increase in loneliness to increased mobility and the prevalence of online work and computers which minimize human contact.