For the OWN mogul and the CBS This Morning co-anchor, a simple "hello" made all the difference. To pay it forward, they've teamed up with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Skype to launch the "Just Say Hello" campaign in the March 2014 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine. Several A-list stars—including Jennifer Aniston, Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Kimmel, Julia Roberts and Taylor Swift —filmed videos saying "hello" in an effort to show people how a small gesture can help combat the effects of loneliness.
Gupta writes that at any given time, at least one in five people suffers from some degree of loneliness. Studies have shown that it can increase a person's mortality risk by 45 percent, more than obesity or excessive alcohol use. Elderly lonely people are 64 percent more likely to develop dementia, he adds.
Numerous studies have also shown that meaningful companionship yields fewer colds, lowers blood pressure, decreases stress, aids sleep and improves cognition. Winfrey appeared on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight via Skype Wednesday, where she explained the significance of simply saying hello.
While Winfrey admitted that she has "absolutely not" experienced periods of "real, genuine loneliness" in her own life, the TV titan argued that for most people, it's an ongoing struggle.
"Every human being is looking for one thing, and that is to be validated, to be seen and to be heard," she said. "Everybody is looking for the same thing. No matter if it's politicians, senators, presidents, Beyoncé in all of her Beyoncé-ness. We're all looking to know, 'Did you see me? Did you hear me? Did what I say mean anything to you?' Just saying hello is a way of validating even a stranger."
Winfrey, King and Gupta hope people will tell them about a hello they gave or received via social media—be it Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Vine—and using the hashtag #JustSayHello.