Fighting the Loneliness Epidemic
May 30, 2023 – “Loneliness, isolation, and lack of connection in our country” has been identified as a significant public health issue. On May 3rd, the Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murthy, released an advisory on the impact of the loneliness epidemic, which further contributes to the mental health crisis.
High school students increasingly face the effects of loneliness and social isolation, made worse through the rise of social media use among teens and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Cross-National Study on Students’ Mental Health, Well-Being, and Loneliness during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Among students, minorities including the LGBTQ+ community, are disproportionately affected by loneliness and social isolation according to the United States Department of Education.
In the advisory, the Surgeon General notes, “Loneliness and social isolation in childhood increase the risk of depression and anxiety both immediately and well into the future.” The Michigan Youth Education Fund recognizes the importance of extracurricular activities in helping students build meaningful connections, healthy relationships, and interpersonal skills necessary to address the epidemic and mitigate the effects of loneliness on adolescent well-being.
Murthy identifies “six foundational pillars” in the advisory to address the loneliness epidemic. The first of which addresses the importance of building a cultural connection.
“Cultivate a Culture of Connection: The informal practices of everyday life (the norms and culture of how we engage one another) significantly influence the relationships we have in our lives. We cannot be successful in the other pillars without a culture of connection.”
Participating in extracurricular activities can help students build the skills necessary to develop and engage in cultural connections. These activities provide a safe and supportive environment where students can develop their interests and talents while building important social skills. From sports teams to debate clubs, extracurricular activities offer students a chance to connect with others who share their interests and passions.
In addition, participating in extracurricular activities has been linked to improved academic performance. A study from the National Center for Education Statistics has shown that students who participate in extracurricular activities are more likely to have higher grades and attend school more regularly than those who do not.
As a nonprofit organization focused on reducing barriers and costs for Michigan high school students participating in academic and extracurricular activities, the Michigan Youth Education Fund is well-positioned to support students in their pursuit of meaningful connections and personal, professional, and educational development. By reducing the cost to participate in a wide range of extracurricular activities, the Michigan Youth Education Fund can help fight the loneliness epidemic and provide opportunities for students to develop important life skills. You can help support our mission, by making a tax-deductible donation here.