We are a nation of millions, but Cigna Health Insurance recently released a national survey that reveals we are a lonely nation.
According to the survey of more than 20,000 U.S. adults:
Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone or left out.
One in 4 Americans rarely or never feel as though people really understand them.
Two in 5 Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful and that they are isolated from others.
One in 5 people report they rarely or never feel close to people or feel like there are people they can talk to.
Americans who live with others are less likely to be lonely compared to those who live alone. However, this does not apply to single parents/guardians – even though they live with children, they are more likely to be lonely.
Only a little more than half of Americans have meaningful in-person social interactions on a daily basis, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family.
Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations.
Social media use alone is not a predictor of loneliness. Respondents defined as very heavy users of social media and those who never use social media have similar loneliness scores.
Even though there are more ways than ever before to connect with others, the struggle to feel connected is very real and can not only lead to emotional issues, but physical ones as well.
According to David M. Cordani, president and CEO of Cigna, this lack of human connection ultimately leads to a lack of vitality.
The good news is that this study reinforces that we are social creatures made for relationship and that communities matter. Less-lonely people are more likely to have regular, meaningful, in-person interactions and are in good overall physical and mental health. They have also achieved balance in daily activities, are employed and have good relationships with their coworkers.
More specifically, the survey showed that getting the right balance of sleep, work, socializing with friends, family and “me time” is connected to lower loneliness scores. However, balance is critical, as those who get too little or too much of these activities have higher loneliness scores. Here are some details:
Sleep: Those who say they sleep just the right amount have lower loneliness scores.
Spending time with family: Those who spend more or less time than desired with their family are on par with one another when it comes to experiencing feelings of loneliness.
Physical activity: People who say they get just the right amount of exercise are considerably less likely to be lonely.
The workplace: Those who say they work just the right amount are least likely to be lonely; the loneliness score of those who work more than desired increases by just over three points, while those who work less than desired showed a 6-point increase in loneliness.
If you are one of the millions feeling trapped by loneliness, here are five strategies for overcoming it.
Put down the technology. While gaming and social media make you think you are connecting with people, your brain knows otherwise.
Make a move. When you are lonely, it is easy to tell yourself nobody wants to be around you anyway. If you are breathing, you are meant to be in relationship with others. Making the first move toward relationships with others can often be the most difficult.
Be intentional about putting yourself in situations where you can have human interaction and create relationships. It could be a class, a recreational hiking club or something else. Think about things you enjoy doing. Find others who are doing that thing and join them.
Know the difference in being lonely and spending time by yourself. Quiet time to rejuvenate and get your head together is healthy. Spending all of your time alone and away from people is not.
Find a way to help others, minimize your time alone and utilize your talents in the community. Volunteer at a local food bank, pet shelter or other nonprofit.