WHO warns that loneliness has become another "global public health concern" and its impact on people’s health can be compared to smoking more than a dozen cigarettes a day.
The World Health Organisation launched a new international commission on Wednesday 15 November. The special unit is to evaluate and deal with the problem of loneliness over the next three years. According to the WHO, loneliness is a "pressing threat" to public health globally.
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Loneliness worse than smoking cigarettes?
US surgeon general Dr Vivek Murthy has been appointed co-chair of the loneliness commission. In his view, loneliness has the same impact on a person's health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. "For too long loneliness has existed behind the shadows, unseen and under-appreciated, draining communities of their wellbeing. Now we have an opportunity to change that," said Dr Murthy in an interview with The Guardian.
"Loneliness transcends borders and is becoming a global public health concern affecting every facet of health, wellbeing and development. Social isolation knows no age or boundaries," add the commission's other co-chair, Chido Mpemba, the African Union youth envoy, in the same interview.
Loneliness leads to mental disorders
Studies conducted on loneliness indicate that it leads to mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. According to Dr Murthy "lack of social connections has become a key driver of the mental health crisis worldwide."
According to a survey conducted in 142 countries around the world by Meta and the Gallup Organization, virtually one in four adults experience high or moderate loneliness. This means that around one billion people are lonely.
Loneliness can also lead to physical problems. Lonely people are more likely to develop unhealthy habits such as smoking and suffer from cardiovascular disease, weaker immunity or cognitive decline.
Source: The Guardian