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    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | January 29th, 2018


    This past Tuesday morning, I received a text message from a friend visiting Columbus:

    Want to walk this Saturday?

    I replied,

    I cannot walk in the cold, but you can be my guest at the body pump class they have at the Y.

    We indeed met at the Y, took the body pump class, had breakfast and then she came to my house and we chatted for a while.

    When she left, I thought about what I heard earlier in the week on National Public Radio’s show On PointLoneliness is an epidemic and has become a public health crisis.  I was shocked to hear that loneliness was associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day. On the show, they referred to an article written by Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, the former Surgeon General of the United States titled Work and the Loneliness Epidemic. In the article he mentioned that 40% of adults in America report feeling lonely and that research suggests that the real number maybe higher. Loneliness is also associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression and anxiety. Loneliness is associated with a poor quality of life.

    Loneliness can affect anyone regardless of gender, age, race, or socioeconomic status. We all experience loneliness some time in our life and it is usually brief. When the feeling of loneliness is a dominant part of our life, it can have serious health consequences.

    Being connected on social media does not mean that you cannot feel lonely.  You can have 1000 friends on Facebook and still be lonely because you have not truly developed a meaningful relationship with those friends.

    The good news is that loneliness is a solvable problem. We need to be in the presence of people. I am grateful that my friend came into town and she reached out to me and we were able to actually see each other.

    It is important to carve out time to be with people and when possible to reach out and help people. It is truly the antidote to loneliness.


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