WHO Sets Up Panel to Combat Loneliness: Loneliness, a major global health issue, increases the risk of serious conditions like heart disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety, and early death.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has named US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and African Union youth envoy Chido Mpemba as co-leaders of a global commission dedicated to tackling the problem of loneliness. Recognized as a significant worldwide health concern, loneliness contributes to heightened risks of various serious conditions including cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety, and early mortality.
Over the next three years, this commission is set to devise strategies aimed at fostering social bonds and elevating the importance of social connectivity in global health agendas. This issue of loneliness is not confined to the elderly or those in affluent countries; it impacts individuals of all ages across the globe.
Leadership for Addressing Loneliness
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has taken a significant step by appointing US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and African Union youth envoy Chido Mpemba as co-chairs of a new international commission. This commission is focused on tackling the widespread issue of loneliness, recognized as a serious global health threat.
The Alarming Impact of Loneliness
Loneliness is not merely a discomforting emotion; it poses serious health risks. It is linked to a range of serious conditions, including cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety, and even premature death. Murthy’s recent report, “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation,” equates the mortality impact of social disconnection to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, surpassing risks associated with obesity and physical inactivity.
A Three-Year Mission for Social Connections
The commission, under the guidance of Murthy and Mpemba, is tasked with developing solutions over a three-year period. Their goal is to enhance social connections globally and establish them as a primary focus in global health priorities.
Loneliness: A Universal Challenge
Contrary to common belief, loneliness is not confined to older individuals in affluent nations. The WHO emphasizes that social isolation and the resulting loneliness are problems affecting people of all ages worldwide. The organization aims to address the health and well-being impacts of these issues across diverse populations.
A Call for Global Action
Tedros Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general, highlights the severe implications of widespread social isolation and loneliness for health and well-being globally. The commission’s work is crucial in promoting social connections as a core health issue and disseminating effective interventions. Murthy advocates for significant investments in rebuilding social connections, equating their importance to other global health initiatives like combating tobacco use, obesity, and addiction.
Inclusivity in Addressing Loneliness
Emphasizing the inclusivity of the loneliness challenge, Chido Mpemba, the African Union youth envoy, points out that young people are also vulnerable to loneliness. The commission aims to address social isolation in all its forms, ensuring no demographic is overlooked in the fight against this global health threat.
What are the Top 5 Fundamental Reasons for Loneliness?
Loneliness is a subjective feeling of social isolation, disconnection, or lack of belongingness. It is often described as an unpleasant or distressing emotional state that arises when an individual feels that their social needs are not being met.
Loneliness is different from social isolation, which refers to an objective lack of social contact and can be a temporary or chronic experience. While loneliness can occur in any individual, regardless of their level of social contact, it is often associated with feelings of isolation or a lack of meaningful social connections.
Loneliness can have a range of negative impacts on an individual’s mental health and well-being. It has been linked to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions, as well as physical health problems such as cardiovascular disease and dementia. Additionally, loneliness can have negative impacts on an individual’s social and cognitive functioning, leading to decreased quality of life and overall well-being.
It is important to note that while loneliness is often associated with negative emotions and experiences, it is a common human experience and can be addressed through various strategies such as social support, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and mindfulness-based interventions.
The economic impact of loneliness can be significant, as it is associated with increased healthcare costs, decreased productivity in the workplace, and a higher risk of unemployment.
Here are the top five fundamental reasons for loneliness:
1. Lack of meaningful social connections
Loneliness can arise when individuals feel disconnected from others, whether due to a lack of close relationships, poor social skills, or social isolation. People who experience loneliness due to a lack of meaningful social connections often feel like they are not understood, valued, or appreciated. They may struggle to find people with whom they can connect on a deep level, and may feel like they are unable to establish fulfilling relationships. Poor social skills can also contribute to loneliness, as individuals may struggle to communicate effectively, make friends, or maintain positive relationships. Social isolation, such as living alone or being physically distant from others, can also contribute to loneliness, as it may be difficult to engage in social activities or feel like a part of a community.
Must Read More Important Articles on Loneliness
2. Life transitions and changes
Major life events such as moving, retirement, or the death of a loved one can disrupt social networks and lead to feelings of loneliness. These events can cause individuals to lose social connections that were once important to them, and may struggle to form new relationships in their new environment. For example, someone who has just moved to a new city may find it difficult to meet new people and establish a social support system, leading to feelings of loneliness. Similarly, retirement can lead to a loss of social connections that were once associated with work, and the death of a loved one can leave someone feeling isolated and alone.
3. Low self-esteem and self-worth
Individuals who struggle with low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy may find it difficult to form and maintain social relationships, leading to loneliness. Low self-esteem can make it difficult for individuals to believe that they are worthy of love and friendship, leading to a reluctance to form relationships. Additionally, individuals with low self-esteem may struggle to assert themselves in social situations, leading to feelings of social anxiety and isolation. This can make it difficult to form and maintain meaningful social connections, contributing to feelings of loneliness.
Also Read: Loneliness: Key Reasons And Effective Strategies For Overcoming
4. Mental health conditions
Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions can contribute to feelings of loneliness, as these conditions can interfere with an individual’s ability to connect with others. For example, individuals with depression may struggle to find joy in social activities or may withdraw from social situations altogether. Anxiety can also make it difficult to engage in social situations, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Additionally, individuals with certain mental health conditions may struggle to form and maintain relationships, leading to social isolation and loneliness.
Also Read: How Loneliness Is Injurious To Health And The Economy
5. Cultural and societal factors
Social norms and expectations, as well as societal trends toward individualism and decreased community involvement, may contribute to feelings of loneliness in some individuals. For example, in some cultures, there may be social expectations around what it means to be a good friend or family member, and individuals who do not meet these expectations may feel isolated or excluded. Similarly, societal trends towards individualism and decreased community involvement can lead to feelings of loneliness, as individuals may struggle to find a sense of belonging in their community. In some cases, technology and social media may also contribute to feelings of loneliness, as individuals may feel like their online interactions are not fulfilling or meaningful.
Also Read: Loneliness: Key Reasons And Effective Strategies For Overcoming
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