Transcript for Surgeon General Murthy calls grief, emotional pain the 'invisible cost' of pandemic
SUNNY HOSTIN: Many people have lost loved ones, you and I included. You've talked a lot about how the grief, though, and loneliness of losing loved ones has led to a big public health issue. I certainly agree with that because I'm experiencing it at home. Can you tell the world more about that piece of this?
VIVEK MURTHY: Well, I think one of the things that we have to recognize is that there's been an invisible cost to this pandemic. And that's a cost that we're paying in terms of grief and emotional pain. There's a lot that we lost during the pandemic. Not just lives, but also dreams and plans and relationships and work and jobs. And we don't recognize that. We won't enable people to truly heal.
But one of the things that pandemic also did is it pulled the curtain back on a deeper struggle we're having as a country with loneliness and isolation. The truth is that loneliness was a growing problem in America long before COVID came. And then the pandemic made it worse. But somewhere around 50% of adults are struggling with loneliness. The proportion of people in the population struggling the most are actually young people.
SUNNY HOSTIN: Yes.
VIVEK MURTHY: And this is consequential. Loneliness increases your risk for anxiety and depression. It also increases your risk for heart disease and other physical illnesses. And it turns out that the mortality impact of lacking social connection is similar to the mortality impact of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
JOY BEHAR: Oh.
SUNNY HOSTIN: Oh, my god.
VIVEK MURTHY: It's greater than the mortality impact of obesity. So this is one of the reasons why I've decided as surgeon general to focus on a campaign to rebuild social connection and community in America. Because this is what we need for ourselves, our families, and our communities.
JOY BEHAR: It's kind of tough to be young right now, I think.
SUNNY HOSTIN: It is.
JOY BEHAR: Teenagers, I mean the loneliness you're talking about, the bullying that goes on. Mental health problems are on the rise in teenagers. And there are school districts across the country now that are suing social media companies, which I think they should right now. Because it's out of control, the kind of nasty crap that you read on social media.
SUNNY HOSTIN: Yeah.
JOY BEHAR: So do you agree that the mental health crisis and-- is because of social media, partly?
VIVEK MURTHY: Well, I do worry that social media is an important contributor to the youth mental health crisis that we're in. And to be clear, it is a crisis.
JOY BEHAR: Yeah.
VIVEK MURTHY: We have 1 in 3 girls who have considered taking their own life right now. We have nearly half of high school students who are saying they feel persistently sad or hopeless. Loneliness rates are increasing. Our kids are in crisis.
And I hear this all across the country when I do roundtables. Social media, in particular, is something that kids tell me about. And they always tell me three things consistently. One, it makes them feel worse about themselves. Two, it makes them feel worse about their friends. But three, they can't get off of it. We have pitted--
JOY BEHAR: It's an addiction.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG: It's addiction.
VIVEK MURTHY: We have asked parents and kids to battle the most talented designers and programmers in the world, who have built platforms that are designed to maximize the amount of time that our kids spend on it. And that not a fair fight. We have to have the backs of parents and kids.
And that's why I will continue to push for several things, including actual enforceable safety standards around social media, which we do not have. We should also, I believe, raise the age at which kids can use these platforms. 13, in my opinion, is just way too young.
SARA HAINES: Well, Dr. Murthy, before you go, one serious question is there have been calls for you to leave your role, actually, because of you kind of set a social fire when you said how you ate ice cream.
VIVEK MURTHY: [LAUGH]
SARA HAINES: Can you clarify? Because I don't know where I stand on this.
SUNNY HOSTIN: Yeah.
JOY BEHAR: What?
SUNNY HOSTIN: It was, like, a Twitter-- it was a terrible Twitter scandal.
VIVEK MURTHY: So I know that this was a big deal. But I revealed on social media--
JOY BEHAR: Well, he only eats the cone. Tell them why it's--
SARA HAINES: He doesn't eat the ice cream!
VIVEK MURTHY: I revealed on social media that I prefer eating an empty cone without the ice cream.
JOY BEHAR: I don't blame you. Those are delish.
SUNNY HOSTIN: That's the best part of it.
SARA HAINES: This discredits this entire interview.
VIVEK MURTHY: In my defense, I will say one of the great things about it-- speaking of social connection-- is it's easier to share a cone. You can break off a piece.
SARA HAINES: That's why you do it? That feels convenient.
VIVEK MURTHY: No, it's convenient, but the real reason I do it is I actually just enjoy the cone more. Yeah.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG: I love-- I eat these just as snacks.
SUNNY HOSTIN: The cone is the best part. And with no ice cream. It doesn't get mushy.
VIVEK MURTHY: Yeah. But look, I just want to point out what we're doing right now. We're just-- we're eating together. We're sharing. We're having a good time. This is not something that we could have imagined maybe two years ago.
And for everything that we've talked about today, I just want to say, we've talked about programs and policies and things we need to change in our practices. But to truly build a stronger country, I believe that we've got to get back to these core values of kindness and respect and service
WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Yeah.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.