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Loneliness is a global public health threat – WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) has made a significant declaration, stating that loneliness is a major global health challenge that is being ignored. In fact, the US surgeon general has compared its effects on mortality to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. This has prompted WHO to establish an international commission, led by Dr. Vivek Murthy and Chido Mpemba, to address this pressing issue. The commission consists of 11 advocates and government ministers from various countries, all dedicated to finding solutions for loneliness and isolation.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem of loneliness due to the halt in economic and social activities. However, it has also brought about a newfound awareness of the importance of addressing this issue. The WHO commission on social connection will be in operation for the next three years, aiming to tackle loneliness on a global scale.

Loneliness is not confined by borders or age. It affects people from all walks of life and has a profound impact on health, well-being, and development. Dr. Mpemba emphasizes that social isolation knows no boundaries.

The health risks associated with loneliness are alarming. Dr. Murthy states that it is as detrimental to health as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and even surpasses the risks associated with obesity and physical inactivity.

Contrary to popular belief, loneliness is not solely a problem in developed countries. Dr. Murthy reveals that one in four older people experience social isolation across all regions of the world.

Loneliness not only affects older adults but also plagues the lives of young people. Figures suggest that between 5% and 15% of adolescents experience loneliness, although these numbers are likely underestimates. In Africa, 12.7% of adolescents feel lonely compared to 5.3% in Europe.

Loneliness at school has detrimental effects on young people, increasing the likelihood of dropping out. It is clear that loneliness is a pervasive issue that needs urgent attention.

Loneliness among young people in schools can have serious consequences, including a higher likelihood of dropping out of university. Not only that, but it can also have negative effects on their economic outcomes. Feeling disconnected and unsupported in a job can lead to lower job satisfaction and performance.

According to Mpemba, in Africa, where a large portion of the population consists of young people, challenges such as peace, security, the climate crisis, and high unemployment rates contribute to social isolation. Mpemba believes that it is crucial to change the way we view loneliness, especially for vulnerable populations who are excluded by the digital divide.

Murthy also emphasized that these issues are not limited to one country. Loneliness is a significant public health threat that is often overlooked. SOURCE: TheGuardian. By Sarah Johnson

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