Loneliness increases the risk of premature death by approximately 26%, which is comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and more dangerous than obesity, lack of physical activity, and air pollution.[i] The impact of loneliness and social isolation on the risk of dying early is consistent across genders, age groups, and initial health status.
Social isolation and loneliness were linked to worse cardiovascular and mental health outcomes in forty different studies,[ii] and social isolation causes a 32% increase in the risk of stroke and a 29% increase in the risk of heart disease.[iii]
Many people experienced social isolation and loneliness during the pandemic. Cigna conducted a survey of Americans in 2019 indicating that the rate of loneliness increased to 61%[iv] compared to 47% in 2018.[v] All age groups experienced loneliness, but people under 50 years old were the highest. In 2019, 79% of Generation Z and 71% of Millennials reported being lonely
The good news is that social connection lowers the risk of premature death.[i] Here are some tips to enhance social connections:
- Reach out to your neighbors or co-workers who may be at risk of social isolation, especially people who are new to the area, have a long-term health condition, or have transportation issues.
- Schedule recurring weekly or monthly social contacts on your calendar. You will be more likely to stay connected if you make it a part of your routine instead of having to schedule one-off events.
- Volunteering increases your wellbeing and gives you a great opportunity to meet new friends.See how you can get involved.
- Join groups such as faith communities, civic groups, or support groups that make you feel like you can be your authentic self.
- Meet new people and learn something new by joining a book club, cooking classes, art classes, or another adult education class. Hamilton East Public Library has great programming (link to https://www.hepl.lib.in.us/), along with the Fishers Maker Playground (link to fishersmpg.com)
- Schedule family or friend dinners and focus on being present. Put your phones in the other room and engage in conversation.
- If you are a parent and feel like a chauffeur, organize something to do with the other parents while all of you are waiting during your child’s practices.
- Get the right amount of sleep. Many Americans are sleep deprived. People who get enough sleep report being less lonely.
- Invite your favorite person to do something featured on one of the blog posts on ThisisFishers.com. You can find ideas for Winter Fun here.
- Join or start a club that promotes health such as the Fishers Running Club. People who exercise report that they feel less lonely.
- Bundle up and invite a new neighbor to enjoy nature and go on a hike in one of Fishers 24 parks. Being in nature is great for your mental wellbeing.
- Enjoy the arts with a new neighbor or friend. The Art Gallery at City Hall is free and features a rotating monthly exhibit of local artists!
- Plan high impact, safe opportunities to enhance social connection using resources like this one: https://www.priyaparker.com/.
- Become a youth mentor. There are several local organizations that you can get involved with, including Youth Mentoring Initiative.
Suzanne Clifford is the CEO of Inspiring Transformations, which helps organizations and diverse coalitions dramatically improve health, social, and economic outcomes. Suzanne previously served as the Senior Vice President of Integrated Primary Care as well as the Vice President of Behavioral Health and CEO of Gallahue Mental Health Services at Community Health Network. She was also appointed by two governors to serve as the Director of Mental Health and Addiction for Indiana where she lead six state hospitals and directed community mental health and addiction services in 92 counties.
She loves going to the Fishers Farmers’ Market, the Fishers concert series at the NPD AMP, and the local restaurants in Fishers. During her spare time, she enjoys kayaking with her husband, traveling, and visiting national parks. She also loves spending time with her two grown sons and future daughter-in-law. Her favorite thing about Fishers is the community’s strong focus on mental health.