Feeling lonely and disconnected? You're not alone.


Guest Column

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                              CONTACT: Michael J. Yates

DATE: April 30, 2024                                                                           PHONE: 865-719-7221

Feeling lonely and disconnected? You’re not alone.

-by Michael Yates

Oak Ridge, TN – May is Mental Health Awareness month and several reports indicate a new epidemic of loneliness has emerged. Recent survey data show that more than half of U.S. adults (58%) are lonely, and chronic loneliness can have profound effects on mental health. Who would have thought in an age of unprecedented technological connectivity, people are experiencing such profound levels of loneliness and disconnection?

American social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, author of "The Happiness Hypothesis” and “The Anxious Generation,” emphasizes the urgency of addressing this pressing societal concern: "Loneliness is not just a personal issue; it is a societal one with far-reaching consequences. When individuals lack meaningful social connections, it not only diminishes their well-being but also undermines the fabric of our communities."

Research has shown that loneliness is associated with a myriad of adverse health outcomes, including increased risk of cardiovascular disease, depression, anxiety, and even premature mortality. Moreover, the economic toll of loneliness is substantial, as it contributes to decreased productivity, higher healthcare costs, workforce shortages, and strain on social welfare systems. As we grapple with the implications of this loneliness epidemic, it is imperative that we take concerted action to foster meaningful connections and support systems within our communities.

So, what are we to do?

In light of these sobering realities, it is incumbent upon all of us to prioritize initiatives that promote hope, healing, and recovery through social cohesion and increased access to mental health resources. This entails fostering inclusive environments where individuals feel valued, supported, and connected to one another and where timely access to mental health care is available to everyone.

Above my desk at Ridgeview Behavioral Health Services hangs a reminder about the importance of connections in promoting well-being. It is a simple reminder, really, it reads: “Connect with the people around you; with family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors; at home, work, school, or in your local community. These connections are the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.”

It's not a splashy, magic intervention to loneliness. It takes time, effort, and commitment. To be sure, addressing the root causes of loneliness requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses both individual and systemic interventions. Building strong social connections, fostering supportive relationships, and seeking professional help when needed are essential steps in addressing both loneliness and depression and promoting overall mental health and well-being.

As Jonathan Haidt aptly observes, "True happiness is found in the richness of our relationships and the depth of our connections." By prioritizing human connection and collective well-being, we can begin to mitigate the loneliness epidemic and build more resilient, compassionate communities. So, let us all consider trying something new to make those social connections: start a book club, take a class, join an intermural sport league, find a gardening club, volunteer at an animal shelter, participate in a community of faith, reconnect with old friends. Any activity that connects you to others can lead to a better quality of life and a sense of belonging.

If in need of professional help, you can begin your care today through Ridgeview’s Walk-in Clinic locations in Anderson, Campbell, Fentress, Morgan, Scott, and Roane counties, visit www.ridgeview.com to learn more. Ridgeview’s Mobile Crisis Line, available 24 hours a day / 365 days a year, is a resource for anyone experiencing a mental health crisis 1-800-870-5481.


Michael Yates is the Director of Development at Ridgeview Behavioral Health Services

Ridgeview is a private, not for profit community mental health center with locations in Anderson, Campbell, Fentress, Morgan, Roane, and Scott counties.