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Minister for Loneliness

Minister for Loneliness

We are social beings. We need to feel connected, to love and to be loved. But what happens when we don’t feel connected, valued or understood? We feel lonely. It is probably one of the most universal experiences and can range from episodic feelings of discomfort to more profound feelings of depression, helplessness, and a fundamental lack of value. Some identify loneliness, especially for older persons, as one of the most significant public health issues of our time. In early 2018, the U.K. government announced the appointment of a ‘Minister for Loneliness’ in memory of British lawmaker Jo Cox. Just prior to her untimely death (she was murdered by a right-wing extremist in 2016), Jo Cox set up the cross-party commission to bring attention to the impact of loneliness, and to “turbo-charge” action and response to this disturbing problem in our communities. Whether this government announcement is perceived as a progressive, provocative, or political move, the gravity of the issue is undeniable. In Britain, 14% of the general population self report that they suffer from loneliness, and more than a third of older persons reported being overwhelmed by loneliness. Ami Rokach, clinical psychologist and instructor at York University Psychology Department in Toronto, Ontario, states that Canadian seniors up to age 65 say they are lonely 5%-10% of the time; however, those age 80 and older say they are lonely up to 80% of the time. The longer we live, the more vulnerable we become to loss of spouses, friends, mobility, and engagement. Shifting now to the USA, Professor John Cacioppo, the Director of the University of Chicago’s Center for...