WHO Calls Loneliness a Potential Public Health Threat

3 min read

Federal agency warns that loneliness could be becoming an epidemic and needs to be addressed.


Loneliness is commonly thought of as a bad thing. However, it isn’t as commonly seen as a public health threat, but rather something that some people deal with and have to endure more than others. It’s a topic that just isn’t discussed often. If someone is feeling lonely and thinks that it is taking a negative toll on their life, they might not feel comfortable talking about it with others and getting the help that they need. Instead, they may internalize this as a fault of their own and keep things to themselves, making the issue even worse.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is trying to shine some light on the damage that loneliness can do to a person over time, and the importance of addressing it out in the open as quickly as possible. The WHO sees loneliness as an issue that is impacting people negatively around the globe, so a new initiative is being undertaken to help those who are suffering and to hopefully make a difference on a widespread scale.

For the WHO to take action on a matter like this, calling it a public health threat, there needs to be significant cause for concern and reason to believe that the issue can cause a major problem in society. That is exactly what is seen through research, as loneliness seems to have the potential to impact people in a similar manner to smoking up to 15 cigarettes each day. That’s a bold claim, as the health damage that is caused by cigarettes is well-known and has caused major health problems for millions of people.

Photo by Marina Shatskikh from Pexels

When it comes to loneliness being a public health threat, the agency warns that it can impact all aspects of overall health, including mental, physical, and emotional. It’s easy to think first about this as just a mental health issue, but it can be so serious that it bleeds into other areas of life, as well. The goal of this initiative is to help to rebuild social interactions among people to the point where as many individuals as possible get the time and attention from others that they need.

It’s common for people to become more and more isolated as they age. Even those who were quite social and active in their younger years may find themselves drifting apart from others and failing to maintain all but a few connections with other people. With that in mind, this commission is not just going to work toward getting a certain age group to become more social, but it will target individuals at every stage of life.

The nice thing about taking up a battle against loneliness is that it can be one a single conversation and friendship at a time. Everyone can join in this fight, and it doesn’t take any money or other resources to do so. Simply by reaching out to a friend or family member to say hi and engage in their life, everyone can make a meaningful difference. With a big entity like the WHO paying attention to loneliness, hopefully the globe will soon be a bit less lonely for everyone.

Sources:

WHO Declares Loneliness a ‘Pressing Health Threat’ and Launches International Commission to Combat It

Why WHO created a commission to address loneliness, isolation

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