Britain has now created a “minister for loneliness” to tackle modern public health problems associated with social isolation.
Tracey Crouch has been appointed by the UK government after research showed as many as one in ten people felt lonely “always or often” and that hundreds of thousands of elderly people hadn’t spoken to a friend or relative in the past month.
Crouch will devise a national strategy to tackle isolation across all ages, and find ways of measuring alienation in official statistics.
“We know that there is a real impact of social isolation and loneliness on people, on their physical and mental well-being but also on other aspects in society and we want to tackle this challenge,” Crouch said.
New York times reports that the prime minister announced on Wednesday that Tracey Crouch, who is the under secretary for sport and civil society in the culture ministry, would lead a governmentwide group to build on Ms. Cox’s legacy and establish policies on the issue.
The Cox commission, chaired by the lawmakers Rachel Reeves and Seema Kennedy, said it welcomed the government’s “prompt response” to its report.
Ms. Cox, the lawmakers said in a joint statement, “Young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate.”
“Throughout 2017 we have heard from new parents, children, disabled people, carers, refugees and older people about their experience of loneliness,” they added.
Government research has found that about 200,000 older people in Britain had not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month.
Carol Jenkins, 64, a retired nurse from Berkshire, in southwest England, said she started to feel lonely when her son moved abroad and she downsized to a smaller house in a different county.
“It was a financial decision to move, and I didn’t really have it in me to start making new friends,” Ms. Jenkins recalled on Wednesday in a phone interview. “Months would go by without seeing my friends or family, and I felt really depressed and alone.”
Ms. Jenkins has since joined a Facebook group for Britons affected by loneliness, which, she says, has helped her to get out of the house more.
“It’s not so much about meeting people on the internet and making new friends, but it’s more of a motivational support network that gives you direction on how to cope and fix the problem,” she said, adding that she was surprised by how many young people had joined the group.
“There are so many university students who just lock themselves in their rooms for days because they feel rejected or that they don’t fit in,” Ms. Jenkins said. “It’s only a matter of time before loneliness turns into depression. And that’s where it gets dangerous.”