A prominent psychiatrist is encouraging people to "go back to church" amid a growing loneliness epidemic.
During a recent interview on ABC News, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D. noted that loneliness is now a public health threat.
"This is an issue so many people struggle with in the shadows because they feel ashamed. And that was true for me as well," he told the outlet.
Citing personal experience, Dr. Murthy also shared that he struggled with loneliness during his childhood and adulthood.
"It was my wife Alice who stepped in and said, 'Hey, I'm worried about you because you're not reaching out to people. You're not socializing with your friends,'" Dr. Murthy recounted.
In June, Dr. Murthy released a new Surgeon General Advisory to raise awareness of the nationwide public health crisis of loneliness, isolation and lack of connection.
He noted that loneliness increases the risk of physical ailments, including heart disease, dementia and stroke. It also increases the risk of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and suicidal ideations.
Dr. Murthy argued that the likelihood of premature death due to loneliness equates to the likelihood of dying early from smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness can also cause a greater health risk than living with obesity, he noted.
He further pointed out that roughly half of adults and even more children are facing loneliness. Social media, Dr. Murthy argued, is a poor substitute for in-person connection.
Meanwhile, author and psychiatrist Daniel Amen contended that social media addiction will worsen.
"I actually believe we're on the beginning of a tidal wave of brain and mental health problems in young people, and it's because we're more disconnected than ever before, disconnected from our own families because when people are together, their faces are buried in their gadgets," Dr. Amen told CBN News.
In response to the growing problem of loneliness, Dr. Amen encouraged people to have more in-person interactions and less time behind a screen.
"So, it's back to church," he said. "Go back to church. Get involved. Get involved with groups. We have to go back. And really, no better place to solve it than the church."
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.