A recent article in The Guardian explored the news of the UK appointing its first-ever minister for loneliness. This political move was a result of a 2017 report published by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. This report was designed to bring a new focus to the ominous problem of loneliness in the country and to prompt action by government across party lines.
The results from the report are hard to ignore. More than nine million citizens in the country indicated they often or always feel lonely. More alarming, the report suggested that weak social connections are as harmful to an individual as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and more harmful than drinking more than six alcoholic beverages daily. Besides health factors, there are economic burdens; for example, loneliness costs employers 2.5 billion euros a year and costs the UK economy 32 billion euros in public services every year because of fragmented communities.
The report’s three major recommendations to action that prompted government involvement are national leadership, measuring progress, and catalyzing action. The UK government is taking all the recommendations seriously by re-appointing the country’s minister for sport and civil society as minister of loneliness, funding more research opportunities to gather statistics on loneliness, and, perhaps most importantly, funding community groups that offer social integration. The Jo Cox Commission states that 47% of the members of Big Lunch, a social integration program, reported feeling less isolated because of the event.
This new ministerial position will work with the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, businesses, and charities to create a government strategy to tackle the issue of loneliness.