“Policymakers across the board must think and act broadly to reverse the tide of social isolation and build social connected communities.”

“Amid the explosive spread of the omicron variant, much of the conversation around COVID-19 has focused on the potential health consequences of getting together. But not enough has focused on the health consequences of isolation.

Social isolation and loneliness afflict tens of millions of Americans of virtually all ages, with health impacts equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, drinking too much alcohol, or being obese.  In addition, this problem costs the U.S. economy an estimated $406 billion a year, not to mention the estimated $6.7 billion it costs Medicare every year. And, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the crisis is getting worse—not better.

But our policymakers have yet to seriously address social isolation and loneliness, which have reached epidemic proportions in the United States, affecting two-thirds of older adults and 60 percent to 73 percent of young people. Instead, there’s a tendency to view social isolation and loneliness as a lifestyle choice or a personality trait.

Social well-being — the strength of a person’s relationships and social networks — is rooted in community design, social norms, public policy, and systems. The same holds true for its opposite, social isolation, which disproportionately affects groups of people and communities who are commonly oppressed and marginalized.”

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