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The quiet pandemic of loneliness

GEHA | May 31, 2023

Protect your personal mental health.

In a report issued the same month that the Department of Health and Human Services declared an end to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the U.S. Surgeon General said the health impact of loneliness and social disconnection is similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.

Generally speaking, loneliness is the difference between the amount of social interaction and connectedness you want and what you have. It’s a subjective feeling, but the impact is real.

The silver lining is that you are not alone in feeling alone. According to a spring 2022 study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, four in 10 adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during the COVID-19 pandemic, as opposed to one in 10 reporting them before COVID-19 dominated life. Those numbers have not returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Help may be closer than you realize. MDLIVE Behavioral Health Services are available 24/7 to GEHA medical members and household family members*.  Licensed therapists can support you with talk therapy and coping strategies, and board-certified psychiatrists help with assessments and medication management – all by using a phone or computer from the comfort and privacy of your home.

Studies have shown that telehealth can be as effective as in-person counseling, with the added benefit of convenience. Meeting with a therapist – virtually or in-person – and talking about your thoughts, behaviors or emotions is called talk therapy. Here are five facts you may not know about talk therapy:

Therapy is effective. A 2022 study from the American Psychological Association (APA) reported that 75% of people in talk therapy experience some benefit from it.

Therapy is helpful with both small and large problems. You don’t need a crisis to benefit from therapy. A good counselor can help you with day-to-day challenges, life skills, decision-making and other methods to help achieve your dreams and goals.

Therapy can improve overall health. Because therapy can increase problem-solving skills and confidence, it can also help you feel stronger when facing challenges. Research from the American Heart Association showed that people who report positive mental health were more likely to have lower blood pressure, better blood sugar levels, and fewer physical symptoms of stress, including migraines, digestive troubles and insomnia.

Talk therapy is popular. A 2021 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that almost one in four adults between the ages of 18 and 44 sought mental health treatment within the previous 12 months. Another APA study showed people recognize the value of talk therapy to feel better.

Talk therapy is accessible. Taking that first step of asking for help can be difficult. With MDLIVE, you can choose from a network of hundreds of licensed therapists and have your first appointment in less than a week. You can choose to see the same therapist each time or change who you meet with to find a better fit.

MDLIVE is designed to handle non-emergent medical conditions and behavioral health issues and can often substitute for a doctor’s office visit. Telemedicine is not intended to replace your primary care doctor or to be used in life-threatening emergencies. Find more information or activate your account, or call 888.912.1183.

People in mental health crisis should call or text the national 988 mental health hotline number for immediate assistance.

This is a brief description of the features of Government Employees Health Association, Inc.'s medical plans. Before making a final decision, please read the GEHA Federal brochures which are available at All benefits are subject to the definitions, limitations, and exclusions set forth in the Federal brochure.

*HDHP members who have met their deductible will be charged by MDLIVE, but GEHA will reimburse the member 100% of the Plan Allowance.


“Our epidemic of loneliness and isolation.”, Office of the U.S. Surgeon General, May 2023.
“A new pandemic of loneliness.”, Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, May/June 2022.
“Understanding talk therapy and how it works.”, American Psychological Association, 21 March 2023.
“Psychological health, well-being, and the mind-heart-body connection: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association., American Heart Association, 25 January 2021.
“Mental health treatment among adults: United States, 2020.”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, October 2021.
“Survey says: More Americans are seeking mental health treatment.”, American Psychological Association, July/August 2004.

Have you attended a webinar?

Every month, GEHA hosts a free webinar designed to offer ways to live a healthier life. Check out our upcoming offerings on aging gracefully, mindfulness and financial well-being. You can view past webinars, too.

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