WHO Launches Commission to Tackle Global Loneliness Epidemic

To combat loneliness as a serious health risk, prioritize social connection, and quicken the implementation of solutions in nations of all economic levels, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced the creation of a new Commission on Social Connection.

Globally, loneliness is a significant problem. According to Treetop ABA Therapy, 52% of Americans claim to be lonely, 59% claim to have a closest friend, and 12% claim to have no close friends. 47% of Americans claim they don't have meaningful relationships with others.

A drop observed from 2020 and early 2021 is continued by 17% of American adults who report feeling lonely "a lot of the day yesterday," according to a Gallup National Health and Wellbeing Index.

Even with the decline, per estimates, 17% of American adults are thought to be significantly lonely.

Encompassing U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and African Union Youth Envoy Chido Mpemba as co-chairs, the WHO established a Commission of eleven distinguished policymakers, advocates, and thought leaders to tackle the matter.

The Commission will examine the critical role that social connection plays in enhancing health for individuals of all ages over three years and provide recommendations for large-scale social connection building.

Additionally, the commission will examine how connectivity promotes social growth, economic advancement, and innovation while improving our communities and society's quality of life. Social pain, or feeling disconnected from others, is standard, as is social isolation, or having too few social contacts and loneliness.

Despite the common belief that loneliness and isolation mainly afflict older people in wealthy nations, they harm people's health and general well-being anywhere in the globe. Social isolation affects one in four senior citizens, and rates are comparable across all areas.

High rates of social isolation and loneliness around the world have serious consequences for health and wellbeing. People without enough strong social connections are at higher risk of stroke, anxiety, dementia, depression, suicide and more.

- Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General

He continues by saying that the WHO Commission will discuss the most innovative treatments and assist in making social connectedness a global health priority.

An equal or higher risk of premature mortality is associated with social isolation than with other well-known risk factors, such as smoking, binge drinking, physical inactivity, obesity, and air pollution.

Studies have connected social isolation to anxiety and sadness and have shown that it can raise the risk of cardiovascular disease by 30%. Social isolation has a significant negative influence on both physical and mental health.

The newly appointed WHO Commission will establish a worldwide agenda on social connection, focusing on increasing awareness and fostering partnerships that will result in evidence-based solutions for nations, communities, and people.

Given how the COVID-19 pandemic and its social and economic effects weakened social ties, this agenda is critical.

I am thrilled to work closely with an outstanding group of Commissioners on advancing social connection – a vital component of wellbeing. Together, we can build a world that is less lonely, healthier, and more resilient.

- Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General

Social disconnection can also lead to poorer education outcomes; young people experiencing loneliness in high school are likelier to drop out of university. It can also lead to poorer economic outcomes; feeling disconnected and unsupported in your job can lead to poorer job satisfaction and performance.

The Commission on Social Connection, supported by a Secretariat based at the WHO, will hold its first leadership-level meeting from December 6 through the 8, and the first major output will be a flagship report released by the mid-point of the three-year initiative.


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