Dr. Vivek Murthy Champions the Power of Togetherness

In our youth and middle age, we all wish a long and healthy life to our family and friends, no more so than at this holiday season.  We pause now between Christmas and New Year during winter's annual break.

As we age and have expectancies of our golden years that may or may not be realistic, how many of us could not save for retirement due to illness, disability, never-ending family responsibility, catastrophic events such as floods, tornadoes, firestorms, or hurricanes, most Americans will come up short in their savings plans.  Very few people begin savings early.  Even well educated people with good incomes now service huge education debt in line with what used to be a mortgage payment.  Housing costs have become ridiculous, and despite recessions, the pandemic real estate values continue to outpace inflation. Add to this is a housing shortage.  The housing market is very much divided.  There seems to be no shortage in t he market for the wealthy. 

As we age if you are unfortunate enough to outlive family and friends our support group shrinks and may disappear.  We become dependent upon social organizations, assisted living and/or care at home.  Some cannot afford those 'luxuries' and must manage 'alone, with devastating effects on health and emotional wellness.  It is a gradual decline, sometimes not noticed by those around the aged.

I often hear people saying I don't want to outlive my bank account.


As a physician and as Surgeon General, Murthy found that loneliness was a profound problem that can lead to public health concerns from addiction to depression, yet it was rarely discussed.

Dr Murthy wrote,


Dr. Vivek Murthy: What's really interesting is that there are many manifestations of loneliness in any age group. And this is why loneliness can often be so invisible, including among those who are older, because we stereotypically think about loneliness as the person who is living alone at home and has no one coming to visit, or the person who is living in an institution and no family ever stops by. 

"If there's a gap between the connections you feel you need and the connections you have in your life, then you can feel lonely regardless of how many people you have around you." 

But I call it the great masquerader because it can look like depression, it can look like anxiety. Loneliness can look like anger and irritability, which is often how it shows up among men in particular, but also sometimes among women. It can look like being socially withdrawn. It can look like being bored and disinterested. 

And when you start to think about that broader context then you start to realize, gosh, I might actually know a lot of people who might be struggling with loneliness. It doesn't mean that everyone who is depressed is lonely, it doesn't mean that everyone who has anger issues is lonely. But I have found more often than not that loneliness is contributing to many of these feelings. 

We need to define the difference between loneliness and isolation.  Isolation is an objective term that describes the number of people we have around us. Loneliness is a subjective term that describes how we feel about the connections we have in our life. And if there's a gap between the connections you feel you need and the connections you have in your life, then you can feel lonely regardless of how many people you have around you. 

A couple of studies have found that older adults are actually in general doing better emotionally during the pandemic.  





Dr. Vivek Murthy Champions the Power of Togetherness | Next Avenue