January 2019: Letter from the President
Dear HealthCorps Family,
On New Year’s Day, I shared an astounding article with HealthCorps staff that included sobering data regarding the epidemic proportions of loneliness in this country. In this editorial, Jillian Richardson writes:
“The average person in the U.S. has only one close friend, according to a study published in the American Sociological Review, One in four people have no confidantes at all. Zero. To make things worse, 75 percent of people say that they’re unsatisfied with the friendships that they do have, according to a 2013 study.”
Alarmingly, loneliness is not only sad; it is costly and possibly deadly as well.
“Loneliness has been alleged to have the same impact on our life expectancy as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, with a risk factor that rivals excessive drinking or obesity. In addition, a lack of social contact can hasten cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, depression and suicide. This leads to a huge uptick in medical bills — the AARP recently reported that isolation among older adults accounts for $6.7 billion in additional Medicare spending annually.”
Growing up in rural America, as an active member of my church youth group, I was acutely aware of the loneliness that isolated elderly people experienced. At that time, whether due to inclement weather or physical afflictions, older people unable to get out to socialize were most vulnerable to loneliness. However, it seems now that those most impacted by loneliness are actually 18 to 22 year olds.
This statistic hits me up-close and personal as the mother of a 15-year-old girl. No child in the US, regardless of demographic, is immune from this threat. All parents must understand the extent of this crisis and the critical need for face-to-face connections.
Dr. Oz had the wisdom as a healer to base the original HealthCorps model on a peer-mentors because he understood the importance of human connection. HealthCorps Coordinators, and educators trained in our curriculum are sharing our tools face-to-face in schools and communities. Students are greatly empowered because they don’t just read about wellness on a screen; they learn it from someone they know and trust.
HealthCorps continues to stress the need for human connection. We share lessons and workshops on healthy relationships, encourage students to commune with those who share their interests, and encourage families to eat meals and communicate together through Mealtime Blessings and the National Night of Conversation. However, there are days the HealthCorps team feels our work has only just begun.
Thank you for helping us connect with 2.5 million students over the last fifteen years.
President, HealthCorps Inc.