EPIDEMIC

Britain now has a minister for loneliness

The British government has appointed politician Tracey Crouch as the minister to tackle the epidemic of loneliness.

The issue is thought to affect around nine million people in the UK. Around 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month. It’s estimated that half of people aged 75 and over—about two million people across England—live alone, while up to 85% of young disabled adults feel lonely. Many can go days, even weeks, with no social interaction at all. In the US, a third of citizens are categorized as lonely.

“For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life. I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones—people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with,” prime minister Theresa May said in a statement.

Previous research has linked an epidemic of loneliness to early deaths across wealthy nations. The groundbreaking 2017 meta studies came to two important conclusions; greater social connection was associated with a 50% reduced risk of dying early and the effect of loneliness had an effect on the risk of dying younger equal to that of obesity.

The ministerial appointment follows a commission set up last year to tackle loneliness—inspired by the murder of Jo Cox, a member of parliament who was passionate about the issue. The commission is now working with a range of charities focused on at-risk groups including the elderly, refugees, young people, and new parents. The minister will work closely with the commission to create a better government strategy.


Read more: People in rich countries are dying of loneliness

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