“Young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate.”
That quote comes from Ms. Jo Cox, a now-deceased British Labour Party Member of Parliament who had been a prominent voice in tackling the loneliness problem in Britain. Cox was setting up a cross-party commission to try to start a national conversation and also measure the scale and impact of loneliness in the country when she was assassinated by a right-wing extremist in 2016.
Now, to carry on her legacy, British Prime Minister Theresa May has appointed Tracey Crouch — the undersecretary for sport and civil society in the culture ministry — to lead a commission in Cox’s honor to examine and establish policies addressing the issue.
So far, Crouch is embracing her role as the ‘Minister for Loneliness.’
The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness uses government programs like the British Red Cross and Action for Children to determine statistics on loneliness in the United Kingdom, noting that over nine million adults suffered from loneliness on a daily basis — with migrants, refugees, the disabled, children, and caretakers among them.
Obviously, loneliness is an issue here in the US, too. United States surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, argued that loneliness needed to be addressed in the workplace. Mark Robinson, the chief officer of Age UK, Britain’s largest charity working with the elderly, warned that the problem could kill, stating, “It’s proven to be worse for health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”
Perhaps the US needs to take a page from the UK’s book and get more proactive — both on governmental and grassroots levels. So far, thousands of Britons are joining in to help, with a Facebook group created entirely so that people who feel lonely can have someone with whom to interact. It’s a chance for social media to actually connect people, rather than separate them and a good start in fighting a broader issue.