Large numbers of people are feeling lonely, both in the United States and around the world. This has been an issue for years, but isolation early in the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the problem, causing some to say loneliness is a public health epidemic. It has been associated with mental and physical health problems, including increased risk of dementia and premature death. Many of the ways people have historically gathered and shared community, such as through religious services, marriage, service club participation and child-rearing, have been declining for decades. Some are calling for a revival of these social institutions to help combat loneliness. At the same time, social media has grown in popularity, which some experts argue can trigger greater feelings of alienation rather than actual ...

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