The World Health Organization (WHO) stated that loneliness is a “global public health problem”, given the general social isolation and “the social disease of not feeling connected.”
This problem affects people of all ages around the world and is already considered one of the biggest health risk factors; its effects on mortality are equivalent to smoking. 15 cigarettes a day.
According to the United Nations agency, one in four elderly people experience social isolation, and these rates are equally high in all regions of the world. Among teenagers, the figure is between 5% and 15%.
These high rates have “serious consequences” for health and well-being, warns the WHO, because they increase the possibility of strokes,anxiety, dementia, depression, and suicide, among others.
For example, loneliness and social isolation increase the risk of developing dementia by up to 50% and the likelihood of a heart attack or cardiovascular disease by 30%.
In addition, it increases the probability of early death by 25%. This number is equal to, or higher than, risk factors such as smoking, excessive drinking, physical inactivity, obesity, and air pollution.
Because of this, the WHO announced on Wednesday the creation of a new Commission on Social Connection to address loneliness as an urgent health threat.
It is made up of 11 prominent politicians, opinion leaders, and advocates, while it will be led by the Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murthy, and the Youth Envoy of the African Union, Chido Mpemba.
Over the next three years, the team will explore the central role of social connectivity in improving the health of people of all ages and outline solutions to build social connectivity at scale.
Its first meeting will take place from December 6 to 8, 2023. The first result will be a report published in the middle of the three-year initiative.
The announcement was celebrated by the Director General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who remembered that social connection has profound benefits in improving health, education, and the economy.
“The COVID-19 pandemic brings the problem of social isolation and loneliness to widespread public attention, affecting all countries, communities, and ages,” he said.
“But the problem existed long before the pandemic and continues to affect many people around the world,” he said.
Therefore, he emphasized the need to identify the initiatives that have the best results in the world in solving this problem in order to allocate resources to the implementation of these solutions.