Loneliness is becoming a public health issue.

We live in a time when we're more connected than ever, and yet a recent survey found that most Americans could be classified as lonely — feeling out of step with the world, not creating meaningful relationships, and seeing themselves as disconnected, even when they're with others. That same survey showed that young Americans may be the most lonely demographic. And that's a problem.

Social isolation comes with health concerns, both physical and mental. According to a 2010 study, loneliness could be just as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, it can be a factor in the development of depression, and it can hasten cognitive decline due to a lack of intellectual stimulation.

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For kids who are shy or don't quite "fit in," school recess can be a lonely experience.

Many of us have been there, standing alone on the playground, wanting to join in the fun and games but not sure how. During one of the few times in the school day where kids are free to socialize at will, not having friends can be painful.

Sammie Vance sitting on one of the 'buddy benches' she had made for her school. Photo via Heidi Vance.

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A lot of things about being an adult are hard, but one of the hardest is making new friends.

It's not like back in school where you were practically forced into social situations every day. It was much easier to make a friend just by hanging out at recess or eating at the same lunch table complaining over last night's homework.

Photo via iStock.

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