The World Health Organization (WHO) has established a commission to support social bonds. Thus, WHO specialists have clearly indicated that loneliness is a serious global health problem.
On November 15, the World Health Organization announced the establishment of a Commission on Social Connections to address loneliness as a pressing health threat. The Commission aims to promote social connections as a priority for improving the quality of health.
How does loneliness affect health?
“High levels of social isolation and loneliness around the world have serious consequences for people’s health and well-being. People without strong enough social connections are at greater risk of stroke, anxiety, dementia, depression, suicide and other diseases,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. He added that the new WHO commission will help find solutions to deal with the problem.
According to WHO, social isolation, insufficient social contacts and loneliness are common. Contrary to the belief that loneliness primarily affects older people, it turns out that in high-income countries it affects the health and well-being of all age groups. Every fourth older person experiences social isolation, and research shows that 5 to 15 percent of teenagers experience loneliness. as WHO emphasizes in its announcement, these numbers may be underestimated.
Lack of social contact carries the same or even greater risk of premature death as other more obvious risk factors – smoking, excessive drinking, physical inactivity, obesity and air pollution. Social isolation has a serious impact on physical and mental health. WHO refers, among others, to: for research showing that loneliness can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by 30%.
WHO will address the problem of loneliness
The new WHO commission is to create a global program on social bonds and wants to raise awareness on this issue. As WHO emphasizes, the program is particularly important in view of how the COVID-19 pandemic has weakened social bonds.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work closely with an outstanding group of commissioners to improve social connections – an essential element of wellbeing. Together we can build a world that is less lonely, healthier and more resilient,” said US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, who became chairman of the new commission.