Why Loneliness Is A Public Health Issue

Episode 108 56m
Topics Overview


When we think about health, we usually think about diet and exercise. We think about the things we are doing for our physical body to promote wellness. But what about the things we can’t see? 

Relationships are a big one. And we now know that loneliness and social isolation are as dangerous for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day! That’s an incredible comparison; one that hopefully puts into perspective how vital healthy relationships and human connection are to our wellbeing and longevity. 

Today on The Doctor’s Farmacy, I talk with Dr. Vivek Murthy about nurturing greater connection and what it means for our health. 

In 2017, Dr. Murthy focused his attention on chronic stress and loneliness as prevalent problems that have profound implications for health, productivity, and happiness. His book Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World was just published on April 28th.

Some of us might wonder how we break out of a rut of loneliness—as busy adults this can sometimes feel especially difficult. Dr. Murthy walks us through some really simple ways to get more connected. Service is one way, which actually stimulates the reward center of the brain and promotes feel-good chemicals. That means devoting some time to helping others in one way or another is actually beneficial to our own personal wellness goals. 

Another step we can take is committing just ten to fifteen minutes a day to talking to someone we love, which is a powerful way to keep ourselves happy and connected during this time of coronavirus quarantine. Pick up the phone, schedule a video call, or sit down with someone in your family and have a real conversation (without the distraction of screens) about what’s going on with you. Chances are if you open up, they will too, and you’ll both be healthier for it. 

Instead of thinking of just the right inputs for health, I invite you to think about what you can give back and how you can reach out to others.

I hope you’ll tune into this episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy to think more deeply about your relationships and how to prevent loneliness, even if you’re currently alone at home.

Get a copy of his book, Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, at https://www.vivekmurthy.com/together-book.

This episode is sponsored by Simple Mills and Branch Basics.

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Branch Basics makes a biodegradable, non-GMO, fragrance-free, multi-purpose concentrate that can clean everything in your house safely. You can honestly use it for anything—in the kitchen or bathroom or even for laundry or cleaning your wood floors. Right now Branch Basics is offering 15% off their Starter Kit, just go to branchbasics.com and use the code HYMAN15 at checkout. 

Topics Covered

  • How Dr. Murthy came to focus on loneliness

    (5:19 - 9:04)

  • The science behind loneliness and its impact on our health

    (10:39 - 14:24)

  • Why we don’t always see the loneliness that exists around us

    (15:37 - 19:22)

  • Loneliness and its connection to addiction

    (17:00 - 20:45)

  • Building connection through love and kindness

    (27:23 - 29:51)

  • Steps we can take in our individual lives to combat loneliness and build a connected life

    (35:08 - 37:36)

  • Shifting culture to a society that focuses on people over reputation, power, and wealth

    (39:59 - 42:27)

  • Our connection to other people is built on having a strong connection to ourselves

    (41:33 - 44:01)

  • Why we often struggle with loneliness in the workplace

    (42:54 - 45:22)

  • Getting over the obstacles that keep us from investing in connection in our own lives

    (46:26 - 48:54)

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Ep. 108 - Why Loneliness Is A Public Health Issue