British Parliament Addresses Loneliness Crisis While US Makes Small Improvements

The United Kingdom's government will lead efforts to decrease loneliness, which can have disastrous health consequences.

Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has made it her priority to tackle loneliness among the elderly and disabled communities with the help of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.

Research has shown that more than 9 million people in the United Kingdom always or often feel lonely and 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in over a month. Studies also show that approximately 85% of young disabled adults between 18 to 34 years old feel lonely.

“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,” stated the Prime Minister. “Jo Cox recognised the scale of loneliness across the country and dedicated herself to doing all she could to help those affected.”

Helen Joanne Cox was a member of parliament representing the British Labour Party who was murdered by a British national extremist in June 2016. Her legacy was one that focused on the growing crisis of loneliness and finding effective ways to help individuals overcome.

May hopes to continue this legacy through her appointment of a ministerial lead on loneliness. Tracey Crouch, the Minister for Sport and Civil Society, will lead a cross-government group that advocates for action to decrease loneliness across all parts of government.

Additionally, a strategy on attacking loneliness across all ages in England will be published during 2018 with the goal of bringing together government, public services and business to create more integrated and resilient communities. Indicators of loneliness will also be established so further research can be conducted.

Mark Robinson, Chief Officer of Age UK Barnet stated in a press release: “Loneliness can kill. It’s proven to be worse for health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day, but it can be overcome and needn’t be a factor in older people’s lives.”

At the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, researchers concluded that loneliness is a greater threat to American health than obesity.

“There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators,” Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, said in a statement. “With an increasing aging population, the effect on public health is only anticipated to increase. Indeed, many nations around the world now suggest we are facing a ‘loneliness epidemic.’ The challenge we face now is what can be done about it.”

CareMore, a medical service dedicated to improving overall wellness for patients, may have the answer to defeat loneliness. The organization has created a campaign called “Be in the Circle: Be Connected” to educate seniors, caregivers, and healthcare professionals on diminishing the feeling of loneliness in elderly patients. CareMore is committed to reducing total medical costs for patients while caring for not only the body, but also the mind and spirit.

While CareMore makes a huge difference in elevating their patients’ happiness, the service is only located in seven states. The American health system has not put an emphasis on addressing loneliness like the United Kingdom has despite known health issues that are a result of it.

“By viewing loneliness as we would any other chronic condition or disease, it becomes possible to develop solutions and prescribe treatment strategies to effectively address this ailment and improve patient lives across the country," said Zubin J. Eapen, MD, CareMore’s chief medical officer.