During the coronavirus pandemic, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has not emerged as one of the country’s most prominent public health officials, despite the high profile of his position.
Murthy was earnest and soft-spoken, often eclipsed on the news and on social media by the likes of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s top pandemic advisor, and Dr. Ashish Jha, coordinator of the White House pandemic response team.
But as the pandemic has subsided, Murthy has become increasingly candid about the concerns he first expressed in his 2020 book, “Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Alone World.”
Released just weeks after the country went into lockdown, Together appears geared toward a post-pandemic world, one in which for many people the virus itself has receded as a health concern, while the psychological challenges brought about by the pandemic have grown even more so. Clear.
In recent weeks, Moorthy has released two prominent pieces of advice that seek to address the culture of cultural isolation fostered by the increasing reliance on the Internet. While the work he outlines is far beyond the scope of a single office, Murthy’s focus represents what is likely to be a major concern for medical professionals and policymakers in the years to come.
The only American
Murthy wrote in a new advisory report released earlier this month titled “Our epidemic of loneliness and isolation.”
The 82-page document is an explicit acknowledgment that American adults have fewer and fewer meaningful relationships outside of immediate family and work — and that the lack of those relationships has serious health harms, Much like those habitual smokers.
A lack of social connection, Murthy writes, makes Americans “angry, sick, and lonely.” And if social networks had already been disrupted by economic, social and other forces before the pandemic hit in 2020, lockdowns, school closures and the advent of remote work only exacerbated the crisis.
Murthy calls on policymakers, business leaders and healthcare professionals to foster a “culture of connection” that treats chronic unwanted isolation as an illness. Whether they will be considered remains an open question.
An ‘epidemic’ of loneliness affects a staggering number of American adults (USA Today) >>>
beyond the screen
Social habits do not arise spontaneously, but are shaped by the values that society bestows on young people.
In May a second advisory titled Social Media and Youth Mental Health An increased reliance on social media is leading young people to experience low self-esteem, as well as symptoms associated with anxiety and depressive disorders, says Murthy. Social media platforms also routinely expose teens to inappropriate and dangerous content.
Murthy describes a study of 10,000 people at age 14, which “found that greater social media use predicted poorer sleep, online harassment, poor body image, lower self-esteem, and higher depressive symptom scores with a greater association for girls than boys.”
While the 45-year-old surgeon general and father of two acknowledges that social media platforms can enhance “the ability to make and keep friends online,” he strongly suggests that we haven’t done enough to consider the harms of a large digital presence, a trend accelerated by the pandemic. , when millions of children attended schools and even summer camps online.
“Our children and teens don’t have the luxury of waiting years until we know the full extent of the impact of social media,” he writes. But the popularity of platforms like TikTok suggests that an elegant policy solution is a long way off.
Social media has done ‘extraordinary harm’ to democracy, public health and safety: Expert (Yahoo Finance) >>>
The number of stressors in Americans’ lives may seem overwhelming. From the cost of childcare to the crisis of global warming, it can be difficult to find the kind of inner peace essential to mental health, especially for people who lack the means to take time off or even a few days off from work.
The rise of AI software such as ChatGPT could accelerate, and possibly deepen, social divisions while displacing large segments of the workforce.
One answer: help others. Recent studies have found that volunteering can improve mental health, while repairing a small part of a broken and broken world.
“Service is a powerful antidote to loneliness,” Murthy said recently.