CHICAGO—A new survey of more than 2,000 American adults found 72 percent report having felt a sense of loneliness, with nearly a third (31 percent) experiencing loneliness at least once a week. The survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association in September.
Isolation is often an underlying factor in many of the most common health conditions, including chronic pain, substance abuse and depression, according to osteopathic physicians.
Long working hours, increased use of social media—in many cases surpassing in-person interaction—and a mobile workforce traveling or living far from family contribute to the high rates of loneliness, noted Jennifer Caudle, DO, assistant professor of family medicine at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine.
“Loneliness is an invisible epidemic masked by our online personas, which are rarely representative of our real emotions,” said Dr. Caudle. “It’s important for patients to understand how their mental and emotional well-being directly affects the body. By taking a whole-person approach to care, osteopathic physicians are trained to address these underlying issues that can quietly erode patients’ health.”
Many of the institutions that once created community, such as schools, churches and neighborhood organizations, have been replaced by online versions or more solitary activities, Dr. Caudle noted, adding to modern day loneliness.
Just over 3 in 10 (31%) Americans reported feeling a sense of loneliness at least once a week, suggesting this condition is widespread and likely affects someone you know. Despite a high quantity of online connections many people feel disconnected.
The first step in addressing loneliness is to determine whether those feelings are caused by depression. A physician can diagnose any existing mental health conditions and suggest treatment options. To limit loneliness, Dr. Caudle recommends some simple steps to help increase real social engagement:
“Face-to-face communication is critical for emotional and mental health,” Dr. Caudle added. “Seeking out meaningful human interactions makes patients happier and, ultimately, healthier overall.”
Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DOs) focus on prevention by gaining a deeper understanding of your lifestyle and environment, rather than just treating your symptoms. To learn more, visit www.DoctorsThatDO.org.
About the American Osteopathic Association
The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) represents more than 123,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; and is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools.
This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of AOA from September 19-21, 2016 among 2,035 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Sheridan Chaney, email@example.com