MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Doug Nemecek, MD MPH
Co-chair National Quality Improvement Committee
Senior medical director for CIGNA
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: We know that approximately 1 in 6 adults in the U.S. suffer from a mental health condition, and research has noted that mental health issues are one of the most rapidly increasing causes of long-term sick leave. But when looking closer, we found that most people with mental health or chronic conditions have a similar pathology: they also suffer from loneliness. It’s clear that loneliness has a tremendous impact on health – it actually has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. We decided we needed to learn more.
The key takeaway from our research is that most Americans are considered lonely, as measured by a score of 43 or higher on the UCLA Loneliness Scale. Specifically, we found that nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone or left out, and one in four Americans rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them. We also discovered that younger adults are lonelier and claim to be in worse health than older generations.
However, our survey revealed several bright spots that reinforce the social nature of humans and the importance of community. Our results showed that people who report being less lonely are more likely to have regular, meaningful, in-person interactions; be in good overall physical and mental health; and have found a balance in their daily activities, including getting the right amount of sleep, socialization and work/life balance. We also hypothesized that the workplace played a role in this. It turns out that we were right – being employed and having good relationships with your co-workers is correlated with being less lonely and being more healthy. Continue reading