Why Are We Ignoring Family as a Solution to Loneliness?

“Last week, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy rolled out a new advisory on “our epidemic of loneliness.” The document argues that “Americans appear to be becoming less socially connected over time,” states that this trend has negative consequences for individuals and communities, and offers a number of solutions meant to boost connectedness.

To announce the advisory, Murthy wrote in the New York Times about his own struggles with loneliness. He recounted, for example, how he let his relationships languish as he focused on his job, and then how he later felt ashamed to rekindle those relationships when the job ended. Murthy then went on to explain what ultimately pulled him out of isolation:

For me, it took more than a year of struggling with the pain and shame of loneliness, but I eventually found my footing. I didn’t do it on my own. My mother, Myetraie; father, Hallegere; and sister, Rashmi, called me every day to remind me that they loved me for who I was. My wife, Alice, reminded me that the light she had seen in me when we first met was still there, even if I couldn’t see it at times. And my friends Sunny and Dave committed to doing video conferences once a month and texting and talking weekly about the issues that weighed on our hearts and minds.

So, the antidote to Murthy’s loneliness was first and foremost family, with whom he communicated every day.”