Why do so many Americans say they are lonely?

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This past year, a study from Harvard University showed that one-third of all Americans and nearly two-thirds of young adults reported feeling lonely.

The figure was even higher among mothers with young children. More than half responded that their loneliness was very high.

How can this be? How can a stay-at-home mom, constantly with her children, feel lonely? How can a student, surrounded by peers, feel so disconnected?

There is a difference between being in the presence of others and being in relationship. We humans are social creatures, and we have an innate need for companionship.

Some barriers to meaningful relationships include social distancing and working from home during the pandemic, long commutes alone and a culture of not knowing our neighbors.

The insurance company Wellmark, recognizing the uptick in utilization of mental health services, offers these suggestions to combat loneliness.

  • Sign up — and show up — for a class, support group or club.
  • Volunteer.
  • Purposely greet others, even those you don’t know.
  • Get to know your neighbors.
  • Consider pet ownership, which is often a springboard for conversations with other pet owners.
  • Put down the phone and talk to people face to face.
  • Finally, give it time, and keep seeking companionship.

Ann Cochran is the health navigation coordinator in the Dallas County Public Health Department.

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