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NYC Commissioner Declares ‘Loneliness’ Epidemic

NYC Commissioner Declares ‘Loneliness’ Epidemic

The coronavirus didn’t only infect people with the virus, but it also inflicted feelings of isolation for those in quarantine. This made New York City health commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi declare “an epidemic of loneliness.”

The Epidemic Due to the Alone-avirus

As COVID-19 restrictions continue to be lifted across the United States, the country is experiencing the psychological implications of years of isolation. Outgoing New York City health commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Dr. Dave A. Chokshi announced “an epidemic of loneliness” in an op-ed published on CNBC.com. The announcement was based on reports that lonely feelings had continued to rise as a result of the coronavirus quarantine.

“The full toll of the pandemic on our emotional health is becoming clearer,” he said in the post.

According to the most recent citywide health surveys in New York, 57% of residents felt sad at some point or every so often. Meanwhile, 67% felt socially isolated in the past 4 weeks.

Moreover, loneliness can also have a negative effect on mental health, especially if it lasts for a long time. According to some studies, it may increase the link to mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems, and stress.

Only one-third of those surveyed said they could rely on others for emotional support. And one in every five respondents reported depressive symptoms.

Despite many scientific studies on the adverse health effects of loneliness and social isolation, there is still a need to call for action.

Isolation as a public health issue “has kind of been swept under the rug,” according to the President of the American Academy of Family Physicians Dr. Ada Stewart. But it is the pandemic that brought the condition to light.

The situation is especially dire because the effects of loneliness go beyond simply feeling down. Self-isolation has been linked to physical changes such as inflammation and elevated stress hormones, which may stiffen blood vessels and raise blood pressure.

The Need for Social Interaction

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology conducted a pioneering study last 2020. Through their research they discovered that loneliness and hunger both activate deep centers of the human brain that induce feelings of desire and craving. According to the findings, the need for social interaction is as fundamental as the need to eat.

This is why Chokshi asserts that prioritizing emotional health through belonging and connection to overcome the epidemic.

“We cannot risk snapping back to a ‘normal’ where loneliness fades back into the shadows. And just raising awareness of isolation isn’t enough. We need to apply public health interventions to better understand it and mitigate it,” he insisted.

To address the concern, he proceeded on sharing proposed initiatives that highlight the collaboration between public health and the residents. Some of these include:

  • Regular community events to encourage social interaction
  • Requesting care providers to meet people in their communities instead of patients going to them
  • Investing in public education to de-stigmatize loneliness and foster a more inclusive culture of belonging (i.e., launching a campaign with the message, “Check in. Listen. Connect.”

“We must turn these vicious cycles of illness and inequity into virtuous cycles of recovery and resilience,” he said.

How To Cope With Loneliness

Throughout life, it is often inevitable to feel down and out at times. But loneliness may look and feel different from one person to another.

Here are a few ways how you can deal with loneliness:

  • Allow emotions to run and embrace silence
  • Take things slow (or one day at a time)
  • Avoid comparing yourself to others
  • Practice mindful meditation
  • Cultivate inner and outer connections (i.e., take care of your body, practice self-love, meet new people)
  • Slowly open up and seek support from peers or family members
  • Seek professional help (i.e., therapies)

Learn more about Healthy Mind here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

NYC health commissioner declares ‘loneliness’ epidemic, https://nypost-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/nypost.com/2022/03/11/covid-caused-loneliness-epidemic-nyc-health-commissioner/amp/, Accessed March 30, 2022

Lockdown loneliness triggers brain cravings similar to hunger, https://nypost.com/2020/04/03/lockdown-loneliness-triggers-brain-cravings-similar-to-hunger-study/, Accessed March 30, 2022

Op-Ed: NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Chokshi says Covid pandemic has left U.S. with new epidemic of loneliness, https://www.cnbc.com/2022/03/09/op-ed-nyc-health-commissioner-chokshi-says-covid-pandemic-has-left-us-with-new-epidemic-of-loneliness.html, Accessed March 30, 2022

Loneliness, https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/loneliness/about-loneliness/, Accessed March 30, 2022

Loneliness – Tips to manage loneliness, https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/loneliness/tips-to-manage-loneliness/ Accessed March 30, 2022

Eight Ways to Ease the Pain of Loneliness, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/eight_ways_to_ease_the_pain_of_loneliness  Accessed March 30, 2022

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Written by Fiel Tugade Updated Apr 01
Fact Checked by Vincent Sales