A new survey exploring the impact of loneliness in the United States conducted by global health service company Cigna revealed that most American adults are considered lonely.

In partnership with market research firm Ipsos, the survey measured loneliness by a score of 43 or higher on the UCLA Loneliness Scale, a 20-item questionnaire developed to assess subjective feelings of loneliness and social isolation.

According to PR Newswire, more than 20,000 U.S. adults ages 18 years and older participated in the survey, which found:

  • Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone (46 percent) or left out (47 percent).
  • One in four Americans (27 percent) rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them.
  • Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful (43 percent) and that they are isolated from others (43 percent).
  • One in five people report they rarely or never feel close to people (20 percent) or feel like there are people they can talk to (18 percent).
  • Americans who live with others are less likely to be lonely (average loneliness score of 43.5) compared to those who live alone (46.4). However, this does not apply to single parents/guardians (average loneliness score of 48.2) – even though they live with children, they are more likely to be lonely.
  • Only around half of Americans (53 percent) have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, on a daily basis.
  • Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations.
  • Social media use alone is not a predictor of loneliness; respondents defined as very heavy users of social media have a loneliness score (43.5) that is not markedly different from the score of those who never use social media (41.7).

“We view a person’s physical, mental and social health as being entirely connected,” said David M. Cordani, president and chief executive officer of Cigna. “It’s for this reason that we regularly examine the physical, mental and social needs of our people and the communities they live in. In analyzing this closely, we’re seeing a lack of human connection, which ultimately leads to a lack of vitality – or a disconnect between mind and body. We must change this trend by reframing the conversation to be about ‘mental wellness’ and ‘vitality’ to speak to our mental-physical connection. When the mind and body are treated as one, we see powerful results.”

The survey also revealed some positive findings which reinforced the social nature of humans and the importance of having communities. Those who were found to be less lonely were more likely to have regular, meaningful, in-person interactions; had good overall physical and mental health; had achieved balance in daily activities; and were employed and have positive relationships with their coworkers.

People who are involved in frequent meaningful in-person interactions were found to have much lower loneliness scores and report better health than those who rarely interact with others face-to-face.

Working to achieve the right balance of sleep, work, socializing with friends, family and “me time” is connected to lower loneliness scores. Balance is critical in these areas, as those who get too little or too much of these activities report higher loneliness scores.

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