Feeling lonely? Don’t ignore it - here’s why!
Given how devastating COVID-19 was for everything from our health to our lives (living under lockdown for months, cut off from family and friends), and our livelihoods…
You’d be alarmed if news were to break of another “epidemic” emerging across the nation.
Yet that’s exactly what’s happened.
On May 1st, 2023, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation” - the Surgeon General’s Advisory on how more and more of us are feeling left out of society and isolated in life, which poses “profound threats to our health and well-being”.
In this blog post, we’ll take a brief look at why Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy is so concerned about social interaction declining in our lives, what his proposed solutions are, and whether escape rooms - as we are an escape room in Chicago - can play a role in combating the crisis.
Why does the Surgeon General consider loneliness a public health crisis?
Because the data bears it out.
Consider this: The advisory notes how lack of community interaction and connection can have profound effects on both physical and mental health, including…
A 29% higher risk of heart disease.
A 32% increased risk of stroke.
A 50% more risk of developing dementia among older individuals,
Likely increased susceptibility to viruses and respiratory illness. and finally…
A 26% - 29% higher risk of premature death.
All of this is described as the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes every day.
On the other hand, social, technological, and economic changes over the years have led to our lives getting increasingly fragmented.
From moving and changing jobs more often to getting caught up in digital silos of email alerts and social media notifications…the chances of creating meaningful connections with the community are shrinking.
To summarize, many of us have come to adopt a lifestyle with fewer opportunities for bonding with loved ones, which medical science says has serious consequences on our mental health and physical well-being.
The impact of COVID-19
As you may have guessed, COVID-19 added fuel to the fire. Social distancing protocols and lockdown measures, while necessary to save lives, quickened the decline in community participation.
Other changes, like the shift to remote work and learning coupled with closures of community spaces, limited opportunities for social interaction and drove a surge in feelings of isolation.
According to the surgeon general's report, Americans spent about 20 minutes a day in person with friends in 2020, a stark contrast to the 60 minutes daily nearly two decades earlier.
The role of digital technologies
The ubiquity of digital environments and smartphones has created an 'always on' culture, which - you’ve guessed it - makes us recede more and more from human interactions.
From work email alerts to incessant social media notifications, our devices are increasingly commandeering our attention.
This constant connection raises workplace expectations, making us feel obliged to be continuously available, disrupting our personal lives.
Furthermore, the allure of digital content, including games and movies, traps us in a digital silo, often substituting real and meaningful human interactions for impersonal digital engagements.
5 pieces of advice from Surgeon General Murthy on how to beat loneliness and boost social engagement
Reconnect with people: Set aside 15 minutes daily to connect with a loved one; authenticity is key to deep, rewarding relationships.
Minimize distractions: Increase the quality of interactions by reducing screen and device time and focusing on in-person conversations.
When people call, pick up the phone: Always respond to calls from friends, even if it's just to set a time for a later conversation.
Volunteer: Volunteering and helping others not only broadens social networks but also reinforces self-esteem.
Get help: If loneliness persists, reaching out to a counselor, friend, or family member can make a significant difference.
How escape rooms can help boost human connections and beat loneliness
A family, very happy to have won their escape game!
Escape rooms offer a creative solution to the loneliness crisis, enhancing human connections in a fun and engaging manner.
They facilitate meaningful social interactions, contribute to cognitive and emotional health, build lasting bonds through shared experiences, and provide an immersive, digital distraction-free environment, thereby promoting active human engagement and reducing feelings of isolation.
A unique platform for social interaction
Escape rooms are more than just a game - they are a potent social interaction platform. The physical nature of escape rooms encourages in-person engagement without digital distractions.
The objective of solving a shared problem fosters a collaborative spirit, urging players to communicate effectively, share ideas, and work as a team, thus creating a rich environment for human connection.
In fact, getting away from electronic devices and focusing on real experiences with family is a key reason why we got into this business.
Improving cognitive and emotional health
Participating in an escape room is not just a thrilling experience; it also stimulates cognitive functions and promotes emotional health.
Solving the puzzles that lead to 'escaping' requires mental agility, critical thinking, and creativity.
Successfully navigating these challenges boosts morale, enhances self-esteem, and provides a sense of accomplishment - all powerful antidotes to feeling lonely.
Building bonds and making memories
Escape rooms provide an avenue for creating memories and bonding with loved ones.
The shared experience of navigating an escape room's trials and triumphs creates bonds of camaraderie and mutual respect.
These meaningful experiences contribute to a sense of community and belonging, alleviating feelings of isolation and disconnection.
An immersive break from digital distractions
In a world often dominated by screens and virtual interactions, escape rooms offer an immersive, real-world adventure.
This respite from the digital world encourages participants to reconnect with their intrinsic social nature.
The absence of digital distractions in the escape room allows for deeper and more meaningful interactions, which are essential for mental health and social well-being.
Promoting active engagement and presence
Escape rooms demand active engagement and presence. The need to solve puzzles, find clues, and beat the clock keeps participants fully engaged in the task at hand.
This level of focus on the present moment can enhance the quality of social interactions, enabling players to fully appreciate their shared experiences, thereby reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.
By bringing people together in a fun, challenging, and engaging environment, escape rooms can indeed play a significant role in beating the loneliness epidemic.
The loneliness crisis and how escape rooms can help - key takeaways
The loneliness epidemic is a serious public health concern, with deep-rooted effects on both our mental and physical well-being.
As Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy suggests, the key to combating it lies in fostering genuine human connections, reducing distractions, and engaging actively in our social lives.
Escape rooms offer an innovative, fun, and effective means to realize these solutions. They promote direct human interaction, foster teamwork, and stimulate cognitive and emotional health.
By providing a challenging and immersive environment that demands full presence and active engagement, escape rooms offer a unique approach to building bonds with your loved ones and escaping social isolation.
Experience these benefits for yourself, and enter a world of adventure and connection.
Book your next escape room experience with Fox in a Box Chicago today, and unlock the door to improved social engagement and well-being.
The Surgeon General’s Advisory, as released by the Department of Health & Human Services: Go To Advisory
Dr. Murthy’s interview with NPR, in which is summarized the six steps he proposes to address the issue: Go To NPR Report
Dr. Murthy’s interview with the New York Times, which shares some of his top advice for people to deal with loneliness at a personal level: Go To NYT Report