A Hidden Epidemic

In May 2023, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy published a report on what he has identified as a major public health crisis in the United States – isolation and loneliness. A hidden epidemic, the effects of poor or insufficient social connection are significant: 29% increased risk of heart disease, 32% increased risk of stroke, 50% increased risk of developing dementia and 60% increased risk of premature death (Surgeon General’s Advisory on Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation, 2023).

In his report, Dr. Murthy outlines the benefits of connected communities and a number of protective factors that can help counteract loneliness. Steps can be taken through public policy, social and civic infrastructure, health care systems, digital access, and the community service sector to better address the needs of our isolated neighbors. The Foundation for Social Connection has published an action guide that communities can use as a roadmap for combating this epidemic locally.

In our region, an average of 13% of households are made up of seniors age 65 and up living alone (American Community Survey, 2017-2021). Visit the RocHealthData map room to explore this data, and add layers of protective factors such as walkability, rate of social associations and internet access among low-income older adults.

  1. Silvia Sörensen

    Thank you for posting this.
    Here are some resources, researchers, and ongoing studies on social ties and loneliness in Rochester

    1. Roybal Center for Social Ties and Aging Research

    2. Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on social isolation and loneliness among minority populations

    3. Resources in Monroe County for combatting social isolation

    4. Social Engagement Coaching for Caregivers

    5. The Social Connection Coaching Project

    6. Loneliness among older adults with vision loss

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