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Loneliness: How to Dig Out

Updated: 4 days ago

Positive Masculinity Content Writer - Samuel Hernandez

Content Writer, SDSU Alumni, Poet, Amateur Photographer


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Loneliness has always been with us from nomadic tribes to now. It is an experience that is relatively normal, it has reached a rather concerning level that the US Surgeon General, Vivek Hallegere Murthy, declared an epidemic. The question of, how could being lonely be considered an epidemic if it is a regular occurrence? The answer lies in a severe form, chronic loneliness (C.L.), that has profound effects on our mental and physical health. Murthy’s advisory report, “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation,” and a Rich Roll podcast episode, “U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek On America’s Epidemic of Loneliness,” explain that chronic loneliness is being lonely for a long enough time that it starts to have dire effects.


“It is associated with greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, anxiety, and premature death. The morality impact of being socially disconnected is similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and even greater than that associated with obesity and physical inactivity…harmful consequences…where performance, productivity, and engagement are diminished” (Murthy, 4).



sad man looking down with blue shirt


The health risks are alarming. However, the number of people experiencing C.L. is eye-catching, with “approximately half of U.S. adults report experiencing loneliness, some of the highest rates among young adults” (Murthy, 9). People often feel lonely enough to develop C.L. and increase various health risks, so how can we combat this experience? Murthy provides a few suggestions in his report and on the podcast.


Firstly, a reminder to men and masculine people: we are social creatures, so we must reconsider or throw out norms and expectations that hinder our need for satisfying bonds. We should improve relationships with friends, family, and partners by maintaining consistent communication. It is important to converse frequently since these relations are more accessible to dust off and reconnect to lessen our loneliness and the recipients’. Another is interacting with them out of the blue instead of needing a life event to start a conversation. Simply wanting to talk to them is enough reason to reach out, especially if you miss them or are lonely, instead of doubling down on your isolation and combating it on your own.


Secondly, attending events, festivals, or hobby meetings could dissipate loneliness and isolation. An example could be book clubs where you could communicate and share your enthusiasm with others who share your hobby and develop new connections. These activities allow you to be authentic and feel elevated and connected with your community. However, there is a cautionary aspect to this need for belonging, “our fundamental human need for belonging is so strong that we may seek it out even in ways that may be unhealthy to ourselves…participation in gangs and joining extremist or other harmful groups” (Murthy, 43).



a fist pushing a guy into a black hole saying negative things  things


Examples of these harmful groups that address and connect with experiencing loneliness and isolation are incel communities, men’s rights groups, and far-right groups. These groups provide a space of mutuality, companionship, and even advice on chronic loneliness, belonging, and other issues–catering to men and masculine people. However, the ideas, practices, and solutions they provide to these lonely men have the opposite result of what those men want. As they commit themselves to these groups, they are further isolated from potentially healthy connections, for these groups exploit and thrive on their loneliness to indoctrinate them with harmful ideas and even encourage the enactment of violence against other people. So be wary when seeking to belong to groups and communities that may worsen your health and identity.


Lastly, becoming a regular of a store, a restaurant, or a frequent visitor to a park helps with loneliness, as the presence of people could be fulfilling. This is an experience I can attest to in college, where I would sit on a bench in my gap period and become familiar with them. In my final semester, I spent less time on campus and felt a deep loneliness as Murthy expressed, “I expect[ed] to miss family and friends [but] what I didn’t expect to miss strangers” (Rich Roll Podcast). The loss of being around strangers is serious to our health as it is something we have all learned during the Covid lockdowns so it is time to return to those places that can become familiar.



two guys hugging and uplifting each other


Chronic loneliness is a serious matter that we must address among our circles by pushing back certain norms that limit our interactions from being earnest and checking in on each other. My last advice for you is to be honest and transparent with people regardless if it goes against the norm such as telling your friends how much you appreciate them or other expressions of affection. Never stop displaying your love because it can help you and the recipient of your sincere thoughts.




Citations

Murthy, H. Vivek. Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation. Health and Human Services. 2023https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-general-social-connection-advisory.pdf

The Rich Roll Podcast. “U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on America’s Epidemic Of Loneliness”. Spotify.

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