National News

Loneliness is making teenagers sick

Posted June 19, 2018 11:40 a.m. EDT

— Youth in the United States are considered to be the loneliest in the world.

That's according to former Surgeon General Doctor Vivek Murthy.

He describes loneliness as "the subjective feeling of having inadequate social connections".

Those feelings and thoughts are toxic and making our youth physically, emotionally, and mentally sick.

Lillian Holley is a psychologist, counselor and director of special education for Bossier Parish Schools. She says,

"The problems get more and more serious every year. Some of the issues of broken homes, drugs, addiction issues, incarceration issues."

While adolescence should be the happiest time in a child's life, more than 50-percent of teenagers are dealing with issues that cause them to feel isolated and alone.

And the rate of loneliness has doubled since the 80's. Even worse, loneliness causes stress, which increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Cognitive Neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf says, "We get multiple ways that our physical body can break down. But also there's the mind where the frustration, depression, all those adjectives are the side-effects so people pull away."

Dr. Leaf studies the mind/brain connection. She says 75 to 98 percent of diseases come from our thought life. She adds, "When we think, feel, and choose, we are changing and influencing every single cell in our body."

With technology and social media we're neglecting our desperate need to connect with others. Without real human connection, Dr. Leaf says, "You will react in anger if you feel like you're useless and you don't count. We have to become human again.

Because we are all busy with our own lives, we've got this loneliness epidemic. We're caught up on our cell phones, we've become an individualistic society."

Bossier Parish schools have a mentor program to help ease the loneliness epidemic. Each student has an adult mentor because they want kids to have someone to talk to.

A simple solution to help kids in crisis become emotionally healthy adults. Dr. Leaf says, "It's really easy to sit and listen to someone and to listen in love. If we change our thoughts we can actually improve the health of our brain and body."

Researchers say loneliness is now a major public health issue and represents a greater health risk than obesity and is as destructive as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.