科技持續進步，人們聯絡更密切，但寂寞感卻變得日益嚴重。曾擔任美國衛生署長的維偉克．默熙醫師（Dr. Vivek Murthy），解釋可以對此做些什麼。
Dr. Vivek Murthy, former U.S. surgeon general, explains what can be done.
Vivek Murthy: Even though we're living in an age of technology where we’re incredibly connected, loneliness has, in fact, been getting worse. And why is that? Well, it could be for several reasons. Number one, people are more mobile now than they've ever been before.
A lot of people don't stay in the communities they grew up in, but they move. And they don't just move once, but they will move multiple times, often leaving friends and families and communities that they’ve built behind. And those can be good moves. Sometimes they find a better job or they enjoy the weather in the new place that they moved to.
But one of the consequences of that can be that they also leave people behind. Technology is also a double-edged sword. Sometimes technology can help us connect. But in other ways technology, can sometimes also displace our in-person connections with people.
When we're spending a lot of time on social media instead of being with people in person, those replace what I think of as high quality connections with sometimes with lower quality connections. And that can have a consequence over time.
But there's another factor is well at play here. Which is that in the modern age, work has expanded and encroached into all parts of our lives. Many people don't go to work at 9:00 and stop their work engagement at 5:00 anymore, but instead they're checking email over the weekends, during evenings, and even sometimes during vacation time.
So it can be hard to actually get not only a mental break from work, but that time that you assume will be yours to spend with family and friends, like dinnertime or the weekends or vacations, well, sometimers they’re crowded out by work.
So these are but a few of the factors that are contributing to why loneliness may be increasing in our country. The real question is why does this matter? Loneliness has health consequences. It turns out that people who experience loneliness have shorter lives than people who do not.
Loneliness increases our risk for cardiovascular disease, for dementia, for anxiety, and for depression, as well as other conditions. In fact, the impact on mortality of loneliness is about equivalent to the impact of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
And why does this happen? Well, to understand that, you have to understand a little bit about the biology of loneliness. Historically, we as people evolved to be social being.
Thousands of years ago, if you were connected with other people, and part of a network, the likelihood that you could protect yourself from predators and have access to a stable food supply was, in fact, greater than if you were out there trying to survive on your own. And over thousands of years, that need for connection became baked into our nervous system. It was essentially a survival advantage for us.
And so much so that, in our current state if we are deprived of what we feel is an adequate amount of social connection, then actually places us in a physiologic stress state. Now stress can sometimes be good when it comes in small bouts for short periods of time.
But when you have chronic stress on the body, that can be very damaging. It can lead to higher cortisol levels that are sustained over time. It can lead to greater degree of inflammation, which are increasingly realized to be damaging to blood vessels and to tissues and increase our risk of diabetes, and heart disease, and arthritis, and a host of other conditions.
So chronic inflammation is a problem. And chronic loneliness in fact, places us in a stress state that leads to inflammation. So you might think, well, this is(n’t) all well and good for health, but how does it impact the workplace? We know that when people are lonely at work, that their degree of engagement in the workplace goes down. That has an impact on their productivity and on their creativity. It can also have an impact, ultimately, on retention, on their willingness and ability to stay in that workplace.
When you also recognize that loneliness places a center of chronic stress state, then this becomes relevant to the workplace as well because chronic stress affects our prefrontal cortex in our brain, the part of our brain that controls executive function and decision making, the very skill sets and abilities that we need in order to do good a good job at work.
Well it turns out that this is a real prevalent problem in the workplace. They are large numbers of employees who report feeling lonely at work. Very few employees actually will report having someone that they would consider a best friend at work.
And nearly half of CEOs are reporting that they, too, are experiencing loneliness. So this is not a problem at only one level in an organization. This is effecting people throughout the corporate chain. So what can we do? Well number one, we can start by assessing the state of connection in our workplace.
There’s an old saying in the world of medicine that I trained in which is that if you don't measure it, it doesn't matter. And if we're not accessing how connected people are, we’re not really going to know what’s happening. W’re not going to know how much more we have to improve.
The second thing that we have to do is to protect the time that people have outside of work to connect with their family and with their friends. This is easy to say, hard to do in a world where email and text messages can pervade every aspect of our life.
But it's really important that we take some time in our lives and protect that from work. And workplaces can help by establishing rules and setting a culture where being immersed in your inbox all the time is not an expectation, and, in fact, not a preference.
The third thing that workplaces can do is to create opportunities for people to get to understand each other in a deep and meaningful way. Now I want to be clear about what this means. This does not mean having a happy hour once a week. That has its place and that can be helpful from time to time as well.
But, Happy Hours end up taking time away from many people from their family. It ends up adding time that they have to come back to work to complete tasks. And many folks, it also ends up being a time where they talk about what they have most in common with each other, which is work.
What you really want is an opportunity for people to get to understand and learn about each other as whole people, not just as their skill set at work. You want to understand what drives this person? What brings them to work? What are their values?
What do they care about? What are they concerned about? This doesn't mean that you have to bear your entire soul with everyone at work. But what it does mean is that each of us has an innate desire to want to be understood and appreciated to some degree. But we often don't have that opportunity.
One last thing that I want to emphasize here, though, is that it's very important for leaders in the workplace to lead by example in creating a culture where connections matter. That means investing in people. It means investing in helping others, when there's a need, even if it's not convenient. We need each other. We are interdependent creatures.
And that plays out in profound ways in all aspects of our life, particularly the workplace. But if we can build stronger connections, recognizing that connection, our connection to each other, is a foundation on which we build everything else, then we can create companies and organizations that are vibrant and strong. And that's ultimately what we want to do.