The United Kingdom wants to address a very prevalent, but rarely discussed issue in the modern world: loneliness.
It’s often in the back of our heads, but rarely on our tongues. With the advent of technology, the internet, and ever-busier lifestyles, people have become increasingly isolated, even as they’re constantly connected to the world. It’s an ironic situation, but one which isn’t tackled nearly enough: the world is getting lonelier.
Loneliness is a complex and unpleasant emotional state, often associated with anxiety or depression. The causes of loneliness are complex and varied. Chronic loneliness can be a serious, life-threatening health condition, with several studies showing that it increases the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, as well as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity. Loneliness is a serious problem, and the UK wants to start tackling it properly.
Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, announced the assignment of a new minister for loneliness, who would work with businesses and charities to create a strategy to tackle these issues.
“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,” May said in a statement.
The work is the brainchild of Jo Cox, a Member of Parliament who was fatally shot and stabbed in 2016 by a 52-year-old with links to US-based neo-Nazi groups; the person shouted “Britain First” as he carried out his attack.
Cox recognized the acute dangers posed by loneliness in modern society, and she was a doer. She established the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, which made the recommendations implemented today by the British government. This is the best way not only to respect her legacy but also to ensure that her work wasn’t in vain. Say what you will about Britain and its recent woes, but there’s one thing the country never lacked for: motivated, capable people who wanted to improve the livelihood of others.
The UK isn’t the only country suffering from loneliness. It’s estimated that approximately 60 million people in the United States, or 20% of the total population, feel lonely. Another study found that 12% of Americans have no one with whom to spend free time or to discuss important matters — and the figure seems to be slowly growing in time. Modern life appears to be making us isolated and lonely, but it needn’t be that way. Loneliness shouldn’t be mistaken for solitude, which is a transient and sometimes desirable state which often has positive effects.