Before addressing the continuos increase of loneliness in Britain and its medical and ethical effects, we give specialists’ opinions of what is happening in the United State in the Coronavirus era (read HERE). In this respect, a recent article published in Jama Journal says, “Prolonged loneliness is a major yet underappreciated determinant of health, placing individuals at greater risk of premature death than obesity, inadequate physical activity, or air pollution. With more adults than ever before living alone and a large proportion of older adults without access to online connectivity tools, the US has a dangerously fertile environment for an epidemic of loneliness caused by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) social distancing strategies.” (read HERE)

Loneliness medical risks. Is not, “per se” a disease

The authors conclude “Physicians and other health care professionals cannot “fix” loneliness in the same way they treat more discrete problems in clinical practice. Nor should they; loneliness is not a disease to be vanquished, but a useful personal barometer of social needs that must be addressed to enhance connectedness and prevent adverse health outcomes. Long-term approaches to loneliness will likely require major changes to social structures and attitudes. During and after the COVID-19 pandemic, however, clinicians, researchers, and health care systems can play a leading role in expanding assessments, interventions, and research to reduce health risks associated with loneliness.” (read HERE entire article).

Minister for Loneliness in the UK

In 2018 the U.K. went so far as to appoint a Minister for Loneliness.

Western paradigms change: The individual was what mattered

See video about a Survey of American epidemic loneliness (May 5, 2018)
The contemporary notion of loneliness stems from cultural and economic transformations that have taken place in the modern West. Industrialization, the growth of the consumer economy, the declining influence of religion, and the popularity of evolutionary biology all served to emphasize that the individual was what mattered — not traditional, paternalistic visions of a society in which everyone had a place (English magazine The Week October 13, 2018).

Loneliness medical risks based on peer review articles

  • Loneliness, living alone and poor social connections are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. (Holt-Lunstad, 2010)
  • Loneliness is worse for you than obesity. (Holt-Lunstad, 2010)
  • Lonely people are more likely to suffer from dementia, heart disease and depression. (Valtorta et al, 2016) (James et al, 2011) (Cacioppo et al, 2006) read more HERE.
  • Loneliness is likely to increase your risk of death by 29% (Holt-Lunstad, 2015).  Read more HERE.

Tacking measures to tackle social isolation 

United Kingdom’s Government is taking measures to stop this trend. As we said above an entire Ministry was created in United Kindom with this aim, also a spontaneous movement is making a campaign in that country called Project of Loneliness. An official campaign that began by doctors which will prescribe social activities as part of a new strategy to tackle social isolation, ministers have announced.

Also, a pilot campaign using Royal Post starts this which saw postmen and women halt their rounds to talk to people who are lonely amid fears growing numbers of people are isolated and suffering health problems as a result.  The plan was trialed in three areas – Liverpool, New Maldon near London and Whitby (The Telegraph, October 15, 2018).

loneliness in cornavirus eraLoneliness in the coronavirus era

In this respect, the aforementioned recent JAMA’s report says,  “Physicians and other health care professionals cannot “fix” loneliness in the same way they treat more discrete problems in clinical practice. Nor should they; loneliness is not a disease to be vanquished, but a useful personal barometer of social needs that must be addressed to enhance connectedness and prevent adverse health outcomes. Long-term approaches to loneliness will likely require major changes to social structures and attitudes. During and after the COVID-19 pandemic, however, clinicians, researchers, and health care systems can play a leading role in expanding assessments, interventions, and research to reduce health risks associated with loneliness.”

From a bioethics point of view, we have a question about the suggested measures. Could be the loneliness epidemic an effect of our cultural values that must be approached from early education?