Vivek Murthy was a newly-minted doctor when he realized that his thorough medical school education had fallen short. His training hadn't prepared him for one of the most frequent health issues he saw in the examination room: loneliness.
Vivek remembers feeling helpless when a patient recounted his sense of social isolation and the physical health problems linked to it. "I felt utterly ill-equipped to address what was clearly the issue that was on his mind," Vivek says.
Years later, when Vivek became the 19th Surgeon General of the United States, he witnessed a "dark thread of loneliness" in his conversations with Americans across the country. Loneliness, he realized, was more pervasive than he'd thought, and was bound up in other health issues in complicated ways. He calls loneliness "the great masquerader"; it often manifests as other emotions, such as anger, or through behaviors, such as drug or alcohol abuse.