Unveiling Loneliness: A Public Health Crisis

The U.S. Surgeon General's warning in 2023 cast a spotlight on a silent epidemic sweeping across America—an epidemic of loneliness—likening its health impact to smoking daily. This critical issue underscores a significant public health priority, resonating with the core of human bonds and relationships. This is a realm that I have studied and nurtured for over two decades.

And this issue is not limited to the United States, it is being felt around the globe. Both Japan and the U.K. have formally appointed national Ministers of Loneliness to help their government more fully address the problem. 

Loneliness and isolation gnaw at nearly half of the individuals in the United States, bringing grave health consequences akin to those of chronic diseases. Loneliness has been linked to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, but also to a myriad of physical health issues. Not only can it increase one’s risk of severe illness, it can also decrease resilience to physical challenges. 

This widespread issue isn’t a fleeting cloud of emotion; it’s an enduring storm disrupting the essence of human existence—our inherent need for connection. Our journey from infancy is nestled in interdependence—reliance on other people and things outside of ourselves—and the warmth of connection in our early years is the foundation for the relationships we forge as adults. However, when that seed of connection fails to blossom, the path to healthy interdependence can be quite difficult.

The genesis of this loneliness epidemic traces back to the dynamic between dependence and interdependence, a choreography I’ve dissected extensively in my work. A healthy relationship to dependence in childhood and interdependence in adulthood is the necessary developmental underpinning to feeling adequately connected: an antidote to loneliness. Many of us do not have this healthy view of interdependence, for reasons rooted in our development. 

The crucial harmony in this dance is the melody of "attunement"—a nuanced understanding and resonance with our emotional states by our caregivers, fostering a sense of being seen and understood. This attunement, or its absence, molds our self-concept and the relationship we share with ourselves and the world. 

A lack of attunement in early relationships leads to a lack of felt safety in depending on others throughout life. This lack of presumed safety participating in intimate relationships has vast consequences throughout the lifespan of an individual: inhibiting friendship formation and resilience, inhibiting the depth of friendships, and breaking down primary bonds such as marriages and familial bonds. This developmental deficit in individuals can ripple into a weakness in communal bonds as individual participation at the community level is also  limited over time. 

Our exploration of this silent epidemic is a call to action, an invitation to mend the frayed threads of connection. The plague of loneliness can be a prelude to hope, healing, and community. 

As we delve deeper into this series, we will offer new layers of understanding, and actionable steps that lay the groundwork for healing the wounds of our past, nurturing our present relationships, and fostering a society where the warmth of connection dispels the chill of loneliness. The "Love Thyself" course is a vital step towards embarking on this healing journey.

In the upcoming articles, we will touch on the realms of physical and mental health, social cohesion, and detail actionable steps towards overcoming self-alienation and shame, and forging more authentic connections. Together, we will explore the domains of vulnerability, and the healing potential of securely functioning relationships.

I invite you to join me on this enlightening journey as we navigate through the storm of loneliness toward the warmer shores of connection and community. Your path towards healing and wholesome relationships beckons. 

How ready are you to step into the journey of self-discovery and authentic connection?

Stay tuned for the next article where we will delve deeper into the heartbeat of connection, the vital role of securely functioning relationships in combating the physical health risks associated with loneliness, and some actionable steps toward overcoming the barriers to authentic connection.


Read the Surgeon General's warning on the loneliness epidemic.


Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.


50% Complete


Welcome to Relationships ReWired