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Mental Health Monday: The epidemic of loneliness

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) – Loneliness and isolation are now considered and epidemic by the U.S. Surgeon General's Advisory.

Studies show about half of U.S. adults experience loneliness, with some of the highest rates among young adults.

Experts believe social media is in part to blame for the epidemic of loneliness. Licensed Clinical Social Worker Stefanie Westover says, "The more social media people use, the more loneliness they report."

Though designed to keep people connected, that's actually not necessarily the case.

"Texting and other virtual communication doesn't seem to have the same response in our brain as actually seeing people and hearing people," Westover said.

The U.S. Surgeon General's Advisory warns that widespread loneliness can pose health risks "as deadly as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day."

But there is hope for people who may have found themselves feeling lonely or isolated. Clinical and Forensic Psychologist Dr. Leslie Dobson has five ways to combat loneliness:

  1. Positive reminiscing with photos or videos.
  2. Visits or phone calls to family and friends.
  3. Going outside enjoying the sights and sounds of nature.
  4. Volunteer to help others.
  5. Visit socially supportive places like church.

Connection is vital for improving mental health, but it's also important who you surround yourself around.

"Take a weekend or a moment to step back and say, 'Okay, who is in my life? Who is draining me and who is adding to my energy and making me happy?' And then we make an active choice to say, 'This is who I want to be around this week, this is what I have to get done and this is the energy I want at the end of the week,'" Dr. Dobson said.

Because the saying really is true; 'Your friends are a reflection of you.'

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Kailey Galaviz

Kailey is a morning anchor and reporter for Local News 8 and Eyewitness News 3


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