(THE HILL) — Everyone feels isolated sometimes, but with one in five Americans chronically lonely, has loneliness reached epidemic proportions? In 1988 the journal, Science published a 1988 landmark study suggesting isolation was as strong a risk factor for morbidity and mortality as sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure and smoking or obesity. Since then, loneliness has become increasing public health concern and health officials are now taking the idea of an epidemic seriously. As the population ages, the burden of social isolation on public health will only increase.

Loneliness is one aspect of inter-related conditions such as isolation due to illness, disability or age; the social and language-based isolation of being an immigrant; depression; poverty; discrimination, etc.

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