In a world more connected than ever by the powers of technology and digital capabilities, people are still alone.
According to research released by Cigna this year, nearly 80% of young adults reported feeling lonely, with more than 40% of seniors over the age of 66 expressing a similar sentiment.
Northern Light Health, the Maine-based health system, said the state is undergoing a
"loneliness health crisis," noting that there are more than 135,000 Mainers over the age of 50 who are living alone.
Recognizing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which exacerbated the loneliness issue among so many other health crises, Northern Light is asking a simple question to drive a deeper meaning surrounding mental wellness.
The provider organization recently launched its How Are You campaign to combat loneliness and social isolation among patients.
As part of the campaign, Northern Light is highlighting its behavioral health services, including promotion of the contact information for the Behavioral Health Resource Center at Northern Light Acadia Hospital as well as both its general crisis line and veteran-specific one.
How Are You also includes a checklist for patients to evaluate whether or not they are suffering from loneliness and recommendations for how they can seek appropriate care.
Additionally, the campaign is supported by a website as well as a 30-second ad spot emphasizing the value of loved ones asking a direct prompt to understand how a person is doing while living alone.
Northern Light is the latest healthcare organization to step up and take proactive steps to combat social isolation and the accompanying mental health complications related to it.
In September, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy continued his public crusade against mental health disparities as part of a broader push to drive health equity. At a Special Olympics event, Murthy called the ongoing nationwide mental health crisis “one of the most critical public health issues of our time.”
“At a moment like this, when so many people around us are struggling with loneliness and isolation, it’s worth asking what we can do to strengthen the connections in our life,” Murthy said.
Last year, EmblemHealth developed a series of programs addressing senior isolation in New York City. A report released around the same time underscored the health impact of chronic loneliness, comparing it to ‘smoking a half-pack of cigarettes a day for many years.’
This story first appeared on mmm-online.com.