The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared loneliness a “global health priority”.
It has launched a new three-year Commission on Social Connection to address this.
The Commission will raise awareness about loneliness and provide solutions for different countries to rebuild “the fabric of society”.
The WHO defines social isolation as “an insufficient number of social connections, and loneliness”.
It estimates that 25% of people aged over 60 endure social isolation and 5-15% of people aged 10-19 have experienced loneliness.
The WHO has found that this can pose health risks such as mental health concerns, early death, and a greater likelihood of stroke. It can also increase the risk of dementia by up to 50%.
Loneliness in Australia
This year, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) highlighted social isolation and loneliness as a substantial issue.
It found that young Australians (aged 15 to 24) experience loneliness more than older Australians (aged 55+), and young females are the most likely to report feelings of loneliness.
The data shows that loneliness has increased since 2001, particularly for younger people, whereas loneliness in older people has decreased.
The Commission’s 11 representatives (from several countries) will look into research that can provide global solutions to improve loneliness.
The WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said it “will help establish social connection as a global health priority and share the most promising interventions”.
The first meeting will be held next month and a report will be released halfway through the three-year commission.