TAMPA, Fla. — Approximately 50 percent of American adults say they are experiencing loneliness.
The U.S. Surgeon General is calling this a public health crisis and has warned of the harmful health effects of being lonely.
While the pandemic had increased numbers of people experiencing loneliness, the U.S. Surgeon General said it's been an ongoing crisis even before 2020 and now is the time to find ways to socialize with people.
What You Need To Know
- Approximately 50 percent of American adults say they are experiencing loneliness
- The U.S. Surgeon General is calling this a public health crisis and has warned of the harmful health effects of being lonely
- There are physical health consequences from being too lonely
- Licensed therapist says the best way to help prevent loneliness is to get involved in clubs, a gym, or take up a sport to socialize with others
The health consequences from a lack of social interaction include:
- 29% increased risk of heart disease
- 32% increased risk of stroke
- 50% increased risk of developing dementia
- 60% increased risk of premature death
Licensed therapist Karen Allen with Thriveworks said the best way to help prevent loneliness is to get involved in clubs, a gym, or take up a sport to socialize with others.
“It is important that we put ourselves out there that we do take that step to connect with others," Allen said. "It helps to put balance into our lives, we need alone time, but also connection time, that does not just happen overnight."
Maria Rezhylo has dedicated most of her life to swimming.
“It’s empowering,” she said.
Its second nature to her, a talent she’s been fostering since she was five years old.
Now 24, Rezhylo has a long list of accomplishments, including earning a scholarship to Florida Southern in Lakeland and graduating last year.
“I think when I swim I get a sense moment of catharsis, so I tell people swimming is a moving meditation,” she said.
But since moving to America from Ukraine in 2018, it hasn’t always been easy for Rezhylo.
“I get lonely obviously because of everything happening in my country or not having my family here,” she expressed.
Her entire family still lives in Kyiv – accepting that physical distance has been a challenge.
“That’s when I get the most lonely,” she emphasized.
Before the war, the pandemic was a breaking point for her, she said. She was diagnosed with OCD and depression. She discovered her team sport was a form of therapy.
“I think if anything, swimming gave me more friends, more connections,” she said, adding her dog, Misha, helps her cope. “He (Misha) helped me not be lonely because there is always someone I have to take care of someone I can spend time with, I am never alone,” she said.
Rezhylo is deaf in her left ear and partially deaf in her right ear. She has competed on the Ukrainian Deaflympic team and called her disability a motivator.
“That made a huge impact on my mental health in general and well-being," she said. “I finished, I looked at it, and told myself I did it, that was my second Deaflympics.”
Rezhylo has turned her years of swimming experience into a career. She started her own business, Fast Swim Academy, after graduation, where she coaches both children and adults.
“This is one of my clients who competed in Ironman," she said. "He called me and asked, 'What what do you want me to bring you?' And he brought a swim cap, it means more to me."
A gift like that reminds Rezhylo that she is surrounded by allies.
“You can't really feel lonely," she said. "When people rely on you."