For those who are not aware of what WOHASU is, I’ll start my writing with a link:

WOHASU  is The World Happiness Summit, and it was created to bring awareness about the benefits of happiness and wellbeing. Or as Karen Guggenheim the founder & CEO has said:  “instead of letting life happen to you, show up to your life”.

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At WOHASU 2024 in London, Karen had a brilliant conversation with Dr. Vivek Murthy, American Surgeon General who has a keen eye on loneliness and human connection. Dr. Vivek statistically explained the dire situation in North America and in general around the Western world, where 1 in 2 adults suffer a measurable level of loneliness, which leads to an increase of –

  • 25% levels of anxiety and depression
  • 29% levels of cardiovascular disease
  • 31% levels of stroke
  • 50% levels of dementia

Ageing alone can lead to a higher level of all these morbidities, now, some of us are making things worse with our actions or inaction.

In a world seemingly more connected than ever before, it’s paradoxical to acknowledge the epidemic of loneliness gripping societies worldwide. Dr. Vivek Murthy,  Surgeon General of the United States, illuminated this sobering truth at the World Happiness Summit, shedding light on the staggering statistics that reveal the pervasive nature of loneliness and its detrimental effects on individuals and communities.

According to Dr. Murthy’s insights, it’s alarming to learn that in the United States, one in two adults suffers from measurable levels of loneliness. This loneliness epidemic is not merely a matter of emotional discomfort; it has tangible health consequences. Moreover, this pervasive sense of isolation contributes to societal polarisation, exacerbating divisions and fostering an environment of disconnection.

Dr. Murthy’s message serves as a wake-up call, urging us to prioritise the rebuilding of social connections as a fundamental aspect of fostering happier, healthier communities. He challenges the prevailing misconceptions about friendship, emphasising that genuine connections should transcend mere utility or transactional benefits. Rather than viewing relationships through the lens of “What can this person do for me?” or “How can they advance my career?”, Dr. Murthy advocates for a shift towards authentic human connection based on empathy, compassion, and mutual support.

In a world increasingly dominated by technology, Dr. Murthy underscores the importance of preserving human interaction and intimacy. While advancements in technology have undoubtedly improved efficiency and convenience, they should not come at the cost of replacing meaningful human connections. As Dr. Murthy poignantly reminds us, machines cannot offer the comfort of holding a hand during times of vulnerability, nor can they provide the emotional support needed in moments of crisis.

Drawing upon his experiences as a medical professional, Dr. Murthy highlights the intrinsic link between social connection and overall well-being. He emphasises that the pursuit of success should be grounded in service to others and alignment with one’s values. True fulfilment, he suggests, is not found in the accumulation of wealth or status but in meaningful contributions to the world and a deep understanding of oneself.

Dr. Murthy’s message extends beyond individual actions to encompass broader societal change. He empowers individuals to take proactive steps in their communities, families, and social circles to foster a culture of connection and support. By prioritizing initiatives that promote social and emotional learning in schools and workplaces, we can equip future generations with the necessary skills to navigate relationships and cultivate resilience.

Furthermore, Dr. Murthy advocates for greater regulation of technology, particularly social media and smartphones, to mitigate their negative impact on social connections. Just as safety measures were implemented for automobiles to protect public health, he argues for similar measures to safeguard mental and emotional well-being in the digital age.

At the core of Dr. Murthy’s message lies a fundamental goal: to ensure people are happy, healthy, and fulfilled. This necessitates a collective effort to prioritize sleep, nurture relationships, and foster lifelong learning. It requires a re-evaluation of societal values and a commitment to building communities where every individual feels seen, heard, and valued.

As we reflect on Dr. Murthy’s insights, let us heed his call to action and work towards creating a world where loneliness is replaced by connection, and where the pursuit of happiness is not merely an individual endeavour but a shared responsibility. By embracing empathy, fostering meaningful relationships, and prioritizing human connection, we can cultivate a society that is truly happier, healthier, and more fulfilled for generations to come.

@wohasu #wohasu2024 @karenguggenheim

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