May 26, 2024

WHO forms commission to promote social cohesion and tackle loneliness as a critical health risk.

WHO forms commission to promote social cohesion and tackle loneliness as a critical health risk.

Mary Chikwanda in Zimbabwe

The committee co-chaired by the Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy and Chido Mpemba, who serves as African Union Youth Envoy, are joined by nine other influential policy-makers, thought leaders, and advocates. Over the course of three years, the study will examine how social connections significantly contribute to better health for individuals of all ages and propose widespread strategies to foster these connections.

The Commission will examine the ways in which connectivity contributes to the overall quality of life in our communities and societies, as well as its role in promoting economic growth, social advancement, and the fostering of new ideas.

Many people experience social isolation, which is a lack of meaningful social connections, and loneliness, the emotional pain of feeling disconnected, on a large scale.

Despite the belief that isolation and loneliness predominantly impact older individuals in wealthy nations, they actually have a significant effect on the health and well-being of people of all ages around the globe.

25% of older individuals suffer from social isolation, and the prevalence is consistent across all areas.

Between 5–15% of adolescents experience feelings of loneliness, based on research data. These numbers are probably lower than the actual count.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO, stated that individuals lacking strong social connections are more susceptible to stroke, anxiety, dementia, depression, and suicide. “This commission from WHO will work to prioritize social connection as a global health issue and disseminate the most effective interventions. ”

The lack of social connections poses a comparable, if not more significant, risk of premature death as well-known risk factors like smoking, excessive drinking, physical inactivity, obesity, and air pollution.

Being socially isolated greatly affects both physical and mental health, with research indicating a connection to elevated levels of anxiety and depression, as well as a 30% rise in the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease.

The new WHO Commission seeks to establish a worldwide plan for social connection, increasing understanding and forming partnerships to implement effective, research-based solutions for nations, communities, and individuals.

Given the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted social and economic structures, this agenda holds particular importance right now.

I am excited to collaborate with a fantastic team of Commissioners to promote social engagement, which is fundamental for overall health and happiness. “We can work together to create a world that is more interconnected, promotes better health, and is more able to withstand challenges,” stated the United States. The Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Vivek Murthy is the person being referred to.

He states that due to the significant impact of loneliness and isolation on both health and society, it is necessary to invest in rebuilding the social fabric of society just as we have in addressing other global health issues like tobacco use, obesity, and addiction.

Social isolation can also result in lower educational achievements; adolescents who feel lonely in high school are more prone to abandoning their university studies. Feeling disconnected and unsupported at work can also result in negative economic consequences, as it can lead to lower job satisfaction and performance.

Isolation in Africa

“Loneliness can also affect young individuals. ” Chido Mpemba, African Union Youth Envoy, emphasized that social isolation can impact individuals of any age and in any location.

In Africa and in other places, it is important to change the way we think and talk about loneliness. Making investments in social connections is essential for building strong and stable economies that prioritize the well-being of both present and future generations.

The first leadership-level meeting of the Commission on Social Connection, backed by a Secretariat at WHO, is scheduled to take place from 6 to 8 December 2023. The initial significant result will be a leading report published halfway through the three-year project.