Loneliness is a silent epidemic that is all around us. A recent survey found that 2 out of 5 Americans feel isolated from others and that their relationships aren’t meaningful. What’s worse, 50 percent don’t have meaningful in-person social interactions on a daily basis.

It’s not just a problem in the United States. In the UK, more than 9 million adults say they often or always feel lonely. The UK even has a minister for loneliness, whose job is to raise awareness of the issue and help people build connections through joint efforts from health services, businesses, local governments, charities, and community groups.

Loneliness damages our health. The Harvard Study of Adult Development has tracked hundreds of men and their families for the last 80 years to determine what leads to health and well‑being. In this TED talk, the director of the study, Robert Waldinger, states that “the experience of loneliness turns out to be toxic. People who are more isolated than they want to be from others find that they are less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, their brain functioning declines sooner, and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely.”