The World Health Organization referred to loneliness as a "pressing health threat," saying that the halted social activities during the COVID-19 pandemic led to increasing levels of loneliness among individuals. This can be as bad for their health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, according to a medical expert.
"Anyone, anywhere, can be lonely or socially isolated. Across all ages and regions, loneliness and social isolation have serious impacts on our physical and mental health, and the well-being of our communities and society," the WHO said.
To address the issue, the health org has launched the Commission on Social Connection that would put loneliness at the top of its global public health priorities. It will run from 2024 to 2026.
Heading the international commission are US surgeon-general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, and African Union youth envoy, Chido Mpemba. It also includes 11 other advocates and government ministers such as Ralph Regenvanu, the minister of climate change adaptation in Vanuatu, and Ayuko Kato, the minister in charge of measures for loneliness and isolation in Japan.
According to Mpemba, loneliness "transcends borders and is becoming a global public health concern affecting every facet of health, well-being and development."
Murthy added that the health hazards of being lonely are much higher than those brought about by obesity and physical inactivity, which could yield the same effects when one smokes up to 15 cigarettes a day.
Philippines among countries with high loneliness levels
An October 2023 survey by Meta and Gallup found that the Philippines is one of the countries with high levels of self-reported loneliness, with 57% of Filipinos saying they are feeling lonely compared to a worldwide average of 24%.
Other countries that reached 50% and up are Lesotho, Uganda, Botswana, and Afghanistan.
A published journal on Nature Human Behavior also stated that people who dealt with social isolation had a 32% higher risk of dying early from any cause compared with individuals who weren’t socially isolated. Around 14% who reported feeling lonely, meanwhile, were more likely to pass away early than those who did not.
The paper had meta-analyses of 90 studies that looked into the connection between loneliness, social isolation, and early death among over 2 million adults. Study participants were followed for anywhere from six months to 25 years.