No Joke: There's a Government Effort to Cure Loneliness


Here's a big secret: America has been snared in non-stop political, racial and gender in-fighting nationwide for the first three months of 2018. Sadly, another school shooting stopped the noise for a minute -- then intensified it. The people who can most easily ignore it all are the ones focused on making it through one more day.

These people are fairly invisible, though their numbers are large and diverse around the world. They aren't all homeless, or female. They are both young and old, from every race.

Invisible people aren't all living in poverty, but every one of them is lonely. How fascinating to learn that the British government does see them, and may be able to help.

In January 2018, Prime Minister Theresa May appointed a minister for loneliness.

Being lonely is a private issue, but also a public health problem that is associated "“with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression and anxiety.”

Tracey Crouch, 42, (above left) holds the first-ever job as Loneliness Czar, and if you're thinking that she's a NotMom, well, sorry to disappoint, but she and her partner Steve Ladner are parents to a toddler. It isn't a NotMom running things this time, but we are surely part of the story.

In 2017, government researchers in the the United Kingdom learned about loneliness from new parents, children, disabled people, caregivers, refugees and college students. Among older people they found that about 200,000 had not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month.

More testimonials and statistics about the nation's lonely people were revealed in a 2017 report published by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, including this: More than nine million people across the UK often or always feel lonely,

Wondering about loneliness in the US? In 2016, a former United States surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review titled Work and the Loneliness Epidemic. He wrote that over 40% of American adults report feeling lonely, but that the real number is certainly higher. Loneliness impacts health, and poor health impacts productivity. Bad news for employers.

Dr. Murthy also showed that "many employees — and half of CEOs — report feeling lonely in their roles." Not only that, but the number of Americans who report having a close confidante in their lives has been declining for several decades.

So how in the world will Loneliness Minister Tracey Crouch, the UK's former under secretary for sport and civil society in the culture actually make a difference? The plan includes the Office for National Statistics helping to figure out how to measure loneliness, and a new fund will help the government and charities build a broad strategy to identify responsive opportunities.

I wish them all good luck, and I hope the rest of the world is watching.

(Crouch Photo Credit: Stephen Pond/Getty Images for Sport England)

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