New national legislation targets U.S. loneliness crisis: 'It’s irresponsible for policymakers to continue ignoring this epidemic'

I do agree that it is a problem.  Ever since "The Lonely Crowd" by Riesman et al. in 1950, it has been accepted that loneliness is one of the regrettable effects of modern society.  That the government might be able to fix it is however a surprising proposition.  Surely social connections are ineluctably personal.  It is notable, however, that the proposition comes from a Democrat  

Conservatives are generally better off when it comes to avoiding loneliness.  They usually have church, military and valued family connections, whereas Leftists often have none of those.  Conservatives are by far the most likely to stress the family whereas Leftists from Karl Marx onward have tended to deplore the family.  And when Leftists do have families, they will often be such miserable souls that their families will tend to avoid them. The world is all wrong to a Leftist

Nonetheless anybody can lose social connections through death, illness and much else so the problem is not confined to Leftists.  At my age (80) half of my friends are dead and I do feel that loss.  I have always however managed to have good relationships with women and I still do.  And that helps big-time.  I even got myself a bright and attractive new girlfriend 18 months ago and we have become firmly attached.  My lifelong appreciation of women is still having benefits.  I recommend it.

This week, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced national legislation to address the loneliness epidemic. 

“Loneliness is one of the most serious, misunderstood problems facing America today. It may not sound like a problem government should care about, but I believe it’s irresponsible for policymakers to continue ignoring this epidemic,” Murphy said in a press release on the legislation released Tuesday. 

The proposed legislation, the National Strategy for Social Connection Act, would require the White House to have an Office of Social Connection Policy to advise the President and “work across federal agencies to develop effective strategies for improved social infrastructure and issue national guidelines for social connection similar to existing guidelines on sleep, nutrition, and physical activity,” according to the senator’s press release. Improving social connections in transportation systems, housing environments, and schools is a part of the act.

This legislation comes on the heels of the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy’s advisory on the healing effects of social connection and community earlier this year. 

“The harmful consequences of a society that lacks social connection can be felt in our schools, workplaces, and civic organizations, where performance, productivity, and engagement are diminished,” the advisory read. “We are called to build a movement to mend the social fabric of our nation…each of us can start now, in our own lives, by strengthening our connections and relationships.” 

At Fortune’s Brainstorm Health conference in Marina del Rey, Calif., in April, Murthy said loneliness was a public health crisis. It increases the risk of developing heart disease, dementia, and mental health issues, and its health consequences are comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. 

“The pandemic has had a number of invisible costs in our country, and the increase in loneliness, the increase in mental health strain, these are part of those costs,” Murthy said at the conference. Nearly 25% of adults 65 and older are socially isolated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

“The data is clear about the risks to our physical and psychological health, though before the introduction of this act, we appeared stagnant as a nation to take this on,” Dr. Jeff Katzman, the Director of Education at Silver Hill Hospital, tells Fortune. Katzman studied human relationships and psychiatry and recently attended the Hull International Loneliness Conference in England.

“The concept of loneliness hasn’t been a true component of the mental health conversation—not part of the diagnostic lexicon, not a real target of prevention strategies, and evidence-based interventions lacking organization into a guideline for care.”

The success of this type of legislation will be seen in the ability to address loneliness across generations within systems and communities to instill a sense of belonging and trust, Katzman says. 

“We need to consider those interventions that can help facilitate trust and assist individuals in abandoning practices of isolation that may have become comfortable yet dangerous and ultimately self-punishing,” he says. 

The act would also ensure funding for the CDC's research on the effects of social isolation.

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