It’s five years since the UK government announced that Tracey Crouch MP would be our Minister for Loneliness. Here’s how Time magazine hailed the “the World's First Loneliness Minister” whose work would tackle “the sad reality of modern life” and noted that, “countries around the world are increasingly examining loneliness—typically defined as the feeling of lacking or losing companionship—as a public health concern”.
In the years since then, we have seen the issue of loneliness feature massively during the intense isolation many people experienced during the pandemic and heard of how loneliness can have an impact on the lives of people of all ages. How is the topic of loneliness being tackled here and around the globe now? Here’s a round up of views on the phenomenon and news stories about it.
The NHS reminds us that “There can be many reasons for our loneliness – and sometimes there is no obvious cause and it’s just how we feel.” The Mental Health Foundation notes that “one in four adults feel lonely some or all of the time” and that overcoming loneliness is part of being a mentally healthy society.
In the United States, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut has asserted that the epidemic of loneliness is fuelling the shift to the political right, according to a report on Huff Post. The Senator is quoted as saying, “I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a lot of things that unite Americans that we refuse to see, and one of those things is the way that many of us are increasingly feeling very lonely, very isolated and increasingly disconnected”. Meanwhile in China, the South China Morning Post reports, a daughter learned of her mother’s loneliness via a smart speaker notification. Part of the problem was, she said, that her mother had moved across the country to live with her daughter but didn’t understand the local dialect and had become intensely lonely.
The UK governments have continued to dedicate resource to the issue of loneliness. The Scottish and Welsh governments have put connections and communities at the heart of their approaches. The UK government loneliness strategy focusses on three areas: reducing the stigma surrounding loneliness, driving a lasting shift in our understanding of loneliness, and ascertaining what really works by examining the evidence of various interventions. Re-engage’s impact team is closely involved in the work currently being undertaken by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to understand what sorts of interventions really work and what really matters for people who are feeling lonely.
The most recent annual report on loneliness from the DCMS sets out the progress made since 2018 and the ways in which various parts of government are continuing to tackle loneliness. What is clear is that there are multiple ways that the problem is being addressed but that loneliness is still pervasive and intense for many people. Like the mother in the story from China, big life changes can often lead to loneliness and there is a lot more we need to do to continue to tackle the stigma of loneliness and make sure that communities are connected.