COVID has caused an ‘epidemic of loneliness’: New York health commissioner

It’s the only virus.

With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in the United States, the nation is feeling the psychological fallout of being isolated for years. In a Wednesday op-ed published on CNBC.com, New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi said “an epidemic of loneliness” amid reports that desperate feelings had risen. arrow after coronavirus quarantine.

“The full toll of the pandemic on our emotional health is becoming increasingly clear,” wrote Chokshi, whose official title is Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Chokshi cited citywide health surveys, which found that “57% of residents felt lonely sometimes or often, and 67% felt socially isolated in the previous four weeks.”

“Only a third of respondents said they could count on someone for emotional support,” he continued in the PSA. “And at the same time, one in five respondents reported symptoms of depression.”

Chokshi said the loneliness epidemic disproportionately affects “people from marginalized communities, as unequal access to food, housing, education and health care impacts feelings of ‘membership”.

“The full toll of the pandemic on our emotional health is becoming increasingly clear,” wrote Dr. Dave Chokshi, commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

These results were in line with a survey conducted at the start of the pandemic in April 2020, in which 53% of Americans said they had felt lonely or isolated in the past week – a purported increase from before the coronavirus. Experts blamed nationwide stay-at-home measures, which turned normally bustling cities like NYC into ghost towns and left people socially stranded for months.

However, the plague of sadness would have been a problem long before the COVID pandemic.

“Loneliness has lurked in plain sight for years in America,” the commissioner wrote. “Rigorous scientific studies of the negative health effects of loneliness and social isolation exist – but public health action has remained uneven.”

Isolation as a public health issue “has kind of been swept under the rug,” according to Dr. Ada Stewart, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Indeed, there is currently no formal medical diagnosis and no mandate to screen for loneliness.

New York City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi speaks at a press conference earlier this month where Mayor Eric Adams announced reduced mandates for masks and vaccines COVID-19 in the city.
New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi speaks at a press conference earlier this month where Mayor Eric Adams announced the reduction in mask mandates and of COVID-19 vaccines in the city.
PA

Perhaps a silver lining of the pandemic is that it shed light on the condition: “Now the pandemic has exposed it,” Stewart said. “It’s real.”

The situation is particularly serious because the effects of loneliness are not limited to feeling depressed. Evidence has linked self-isolation to physical changes, including inflammation and elevated stress hormones that can constrict blood vessels and raise blood pressure.

Meanwhile, a groundbreaking 2020 study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that loneliness and hunger trigger deep centers in the human brain causing feelings of craving and thirst. They say their findings suggest the need for social interaction is as paramount as the need to eat.

In order to fight the scourge, “we must seize the opportunity to prioritize America’s emotional health — and speak about belonging and connection as essential to our well-being,” Chokshi wrote. .

City-wide health surveys found that
Citywide health surveys found that “57% of residents felt lonely sometimes or often, and 67% felt socially isolated in the previous four weeks.”
Noam Galai

“We cannot risk returning to a ‘normal’ where loneliness fades into shadow,” he continued. “And it is not enough to raise awareness of isolation. We need to apply public health interventions to better understand and mitigate it.

Some of the anti-loneliness initiatives proposed by the Health Commissioner include holding regular community events to facilitate social interaction and even having healthcare providers meet with people in their communities rather than asking patients to go home.

“Public health must work with citizens to plan programs that improve social connections,” the commissioner said.

Chokshi cited the East Harlem Neighborhood Action Center in Manhattan, which has a “baby café” for parent meetings, cooking classes, walking groups and even a community health clinic. He believes this pattern can be recreated in a variety of public spaces, from the community garden to the YMCA.

“Loneliness has lurked in plain sight for years in America,” Chokshi wrote. “Rigorous scientific studies of the negative health effects of loneliness and social isolation exist – but public health action has remained uneven.”
Noam Galai

Elsewhere in the state of emergency speech, the official stressed the importance of public education “de-stigmatizing” isolation, writing: “In New York, we recently launched a campaign against loneliness with a message :“Register. Listen. Connect.’ ”

He added: “It appears in the subways, bus shelters and newspapers in every community, as well as on television and radio, and, most importantly, includes a telephone number that anyone can contact and ask for help. if needed.”

The commissioner also implored the ‘CDC, epidemiologists, the public and public health professionals’ to amass better data regarding ‘the’ who’, ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘where’ of the outbreak. of loneliness in America.”

“With new research, we can create evidence-based policies and measure loneliness as a public health issue,” he wrote.

“With new research, we can create evidence-based policies and measure loneliness as a public health issue,” he wrote.
Alexis Rosenfeld

In a new measure across the Pacific Ocean, Japan has appointed a loneliness minister in 2021 to try to tackle its explosive suicide rate amid COVID-19.

Unfortunately, isolation wasn’t the only psychological side effect of the pandemic, which is believed to have caused a spike in everything from depression to eating disorders among coronavirus survivors.

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