Surgeon General Advisory on Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation


In May 2023, United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released a new advisory on the epidemic of loneliness and isolation in the country, and the healing effects of social connection and community. His plan lays out a framework for a National Strategy to Advance Social Connection based on six foundational pillars. One of these pillars is to mobilize the health sector, because as the advisory states, “social isolation and loneliness are independent risk factors for several major health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, and premature mortality from all causes.[1]

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a press release to summarize the Surgeon General’s advisory, calling loneliness, isolation, and lack of connection in the U.S. a “public health crisis.” The press release also adds that “loneliness and isolation increase the risk for individuals to develop mental health challenges in their lives, and lacking connection can increase the risk for premature death to levels comparable to smoking daily.” A new HHS priority page on Social Connection provides further details on the advisory, and actionable resources for a variety of audiences.

About one in two adults in America already reported experiencing loneliness prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the pandemic exacerbated the prevalence[2]. See the COVID-19 Topic Brief from the Integration Academy for some of the early impacts of COVID-19 on behavioral health, and articles from Harvard University and the American Psychological Association (APA) on the impact of the pandemic on loneliness. Additional health risks of loneliness and isolation, along with resources for people experiencing them, can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

[1] Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB. Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS Med. 2010;7(7):e1000316.

[2] Public Health Service. Office of the Surgeon General. Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 2023. Accessed May 5, 2023.