Portfolio Company Guest Post

Solving One of Social Health’s Key Indicators: Loneliness

April 4, 2024

Loneliness has emerged as a pervasive health issue in the United States, but even more concerning is how it can serve as a catalyst for other serious medical conditions.

Last year’s U.S. Surgeon General advisory on the epidemic of loneliness served as a wakeup call. Not surprisingly, indicators of loneliness spiked at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a sharp increase in social isolation and a significant decrease in social engagement with others.

What’s more striking, however, is the number and severity of ancillary effects loneliness can impose on an individual’s overall health. For example, the advisory reported that a lack of social connections can increase the risk of premature death as much as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. Loneliness is also associated with a 29% higher risk of heart disease and a 32% higher risk of stroke, while also increasing the risk of anxiety, depression and dementia. The negative impacts of loneliness could cost the U.S. economy over $406B a year.

The Link Between Loneliness and Social Health

Loneliness is also a key indicator of social health, which is defined as the aspect of overall health and well-being stemming from connection and community. Until recently, however, its importance has been overlooked in the traditional healthcare paradigm.

Encompassing the support structures and personal connections that surround us, social health shapes daily experiences and influences physical and mental health outcomes. Along with physical and mental health, social health is a crucial pillar of overall well-being. One study found that the impact of social relationships on the risk of death is comparable with other well-known factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption, and it can have even more influence on overall health than physical inactivity and obesity.

At its core, social health hinges on two fundamental factors:

  • Cultivating healthy relationships: Fostering meaningful connections with others, including platonic friendships, romantic partnerships, family relationships and professional affiliations.
  • Nurturing the quality of relationships: Gauging factors such as a relationship’s longevity and the depth of an emotional connection significantly impacts social well-being.

Strong interpersonal relationships and support systems are indicators of strong social health and ultimately promote overall vitality. By contrast, the absence of these social health factors often leads to chronic loneliness and stress, which can spark a range of physical health problems, highlighting the link between our social and physiological states. Multiple peer-reviewed studies have proven that untreated loneliness can affect mental health as well as physical health at a cellular level, functionally changing the brain. In some cases, it causes individuals to self-isolate and severely reduces their ability to take care of their own health. Once loneliness takes hold, it’s difficult to break unhealthy cycles.

As with loneliness, research has corroborated the impact of social health on overall health outcomes, such as:

  • Lifespan: Poor social health has been found to make premature death 60% more likely.
  • Stress: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that improving social health leads to less stress and better sleep.
  • Heart health: The American Heart Association says social isolation and loneliness are linked to a 29% increased risk of heart attack and/or death from heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.

The healthcare industry is just beginning to recognize the impact of social health, but more needs to be done. An increased focus on social health can sometimes mean transcending traditional healthcare boundaries and embracing a more holistic approach to wellness.

Integrating Tech With Empathetic Peer-to-Peer Mentoring to Address Loneliness and Social Health

Pyx Health was built to address gaps in the healthcare system related to loneliness and isolation, and we’ve found that our approach impacts the broader social health umbrella as well. Pyx solves for loneliness with an innovative combination of science, technology, and human connection. We combine compassionate humans and an interactive mobile app, providing support that extends beyond traditional healthcare settings and connecting individuals to the right resources at the right moment.

Specifically, we’ve designed the first program to apply positive psychology interventions for a scientific approach to loneliness. Our Thrive Pathway is an intensive, 8-week structured program designed to help people build new perspectives that lead to increased positivity, resiliency, and long-term social skills, addressing social connections as the pathway to improve other aspects of physical and mental health.

The results are strong and multifaceted. Roughly 60% of Medicaid and Medicare members report reduced loneliness with Pyx Health; and of those, over 60% also show reduced depression. The financial impact is significant as well, including a double-digit reduction in emergency room visit costs and average savings of $5,000 per member per month among health plans working with Pyx Health.

Poor social health has become an epidemic. The good news is that when we solve loneliness, we can solve so much more. We uncover previously unknown social determinants of health challenges, such as food or housing insecurity or a lack of transportation. We’re able to find and engage hard-to-reach members and connect individuals to resources available through their health plans or community organizations. Ultimately, we’re helping them with not only their mental health but their physical and social health as well. This holistic approach to addressing loneliness and social health creates a cascade of benefits for individuals, for their health plans, and for the healthcare system overall.


Cindy Jordan

Cindy Jordan
Co-founder and CEO,
Pyx Health


Loneliness, Mental Health, Social Health