Former surgeon general decries 'loneliness epidemic,' says work is partly to blame

Washington Post (Charleston Gazette)

Dr. Vivek Murthy, who was U.S. surgeon general at the end of the Obama administration, says loneliness among Americans is a growing, and overlooked, health issue.

When people think of the public health issues that have been pet priorities for surgeon generals, physical health concerns usually come to mind. Smoking. Immunizations. Obesity. Preventing the spread of the AIDS virus.

But Vivek H. Murthy, who became the U.S. surgeon general in late 2014 after a lengthy confirmation battle over his remarks about guns being a health-care issue, added emotional well-being and loneliness to his list of big public health worries.

Now he's writing about the impact the workplace has on those issues, taking his concerns to employers and speaking out about how the "loneliness epidemic" plays out on the job. In a new cover story in the Harvard Business Review, Murthy treats loneliness like a public health crisis, and the workplace as one of the primary places where it can get better — or worse. "Our social connections are in fact largely influenced by the institutions and settings where we spend the majority of our time," Murthy said in an interview with The Washington Post. "That includes the workplace."

In the HBR article, Murthy writes that "we live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization, yet rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980s." The Post spoke with Murthy about what leaders can do, why he calls it an "epidemic," and why he didn't focus more on employees being overworked in his essay. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Read rest of story   Former surgeon general decries 'loneliness epidemic,' says work is partly to blame   By Jena McGregor for The Washington Post

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