Loneliness is a pressing health threat, with serious consequences for the health and mental well-being of the elderly and young people worldwide, said the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday.
Social isolation — having an insufficient number of social connections, and loneliness — and the social pain of not feeling connected are widespread.
Contrary to the perception that isolation and loneliness primarily affect older people in high-income countries, they impact the health and well-being of all age groups across the world.
According to research, social isolation is common among one in four older people and in five to 15 per cent adolescents. However, these figures are likely to be underestimations.
To address it, the UN health body announced a new Commission on Social Connection which will promote social connection as a priority and accelerate the scaling up of solutions in countries of all incomes.
“High rates of social isolation and loneliness around the world have serious consequences for health and well-being. People without enough strong social connections are at higher risk of stroke, anxiety, dementia, depression, suicide and more,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a statement.
“This WHO Commission will help establish social connection as a global health priority and share the most promising interventions,” he added.
The Commission, to be co-chaired by US Surgeon General, Dr Vivek Murthy, and African Union Youth Envoy, Chido Mpemba, will have 11 leading policy-makers, thought leaders and advocates.
Running for three years, it will analyse the central role social connection plays in improving health for people of all ages and outline solutions to build social connections at scale.
The Commission will consider how connection enhances the well-being of our communities and societies and helps foster economic progress, social development, and innovation.
Studies show that lack of social connection carries an equivalent, or even greater, risk of early death as other better-known risk factors – such as smoking, excessive drinking, physical inactivity, obesity, and air pollution.
Social isolation also has a serious impact on physical and mental health; studies show that it has been linked to anxiety and depression and can increase risk of cardiovascular disease by 30 per cent.
The Commission on Social Connection, supported by a Secretariat based at WHO, will hold its first leadership-level meeting from December 6 to 8, the WHO said. (IANS)