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Are you feeling lonely? There’s (almost) a law for that

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy
Molly Ingram
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) wants to draw attention to a new epidemic — loneliness.

Murphy has introduced the National Strategy for Social Connection Act. It would create a White House office focused on improving quality of life in the U.S., as well as establish guidelines for social connection, similar to those that advise on sleep, nutrition and physical activity.

He said legislating the issue may seem strange, but it has to be done.

“I know this is not a normal subject for a United States senator to talk about, loneliness, but it has real health implications,” Murphy said. “ It has real political implications, because when a lot of people are feeling lonely and unattached, they find or seek attachment in fringe groups in extremist movements and deep, dark places.”

Erin Leavitt-Smith with the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services said loneliness has negative impacts on health.

“Social isolation is associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, suicide, including feeling sad, fatigued, irritable and changes in sleep patterns,” Leavitt-Smith said.

A big part of the problem is social media addiction, according to Murphy. He said he is building a bipartisan consensus around breaking the addiction — and hopes his loneliness bill will get the same support.

“I've begun to have conversations with my Republican colleagues, if not about this legislation, about some of the programs we would want to fund in order to attack the epidemic of loneliness,” Murphy said.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.