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Confronting an epidemic of loneliness among the young

Vivek Murthy, U.S. surgeon generalVivek Murthy, U.S. surgeon general, sees mental-health issues. / AP photo

This news feature by Kara Baskin, a Boston Globe correspondent who lives in Arlington and writes the Parents Unfiltered column, was published March 15, under the headline “Kids are overscheduled. They’re also lonely. We’ve got to stop pressuring them before it’s too late.” It is republished in full with the author's permission.

Loneliness: It’s the scourge of our time. In 2023, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued an advisory on loneliness and isolation, calling it an epidemic: Lacking social connection increases risk of premature death by more than 60 percent.

Young people are especially lonely. For this age group, time spent in person with friends has dwindled by nearly 70 percent over almost two decades, from roughly 150 minutes per day in 2003 to 40 minutes per day in 2020.

But what can we actually do about it? How do we disentangle our kids from their earbuds? My 13-year-old spends his free time (after too much homework, and basketball) gaming with friends — remotely. Last weekend, when I suggested that those friends actually come over, he looked at me like I was nuts.

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