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You’re Not Alone (Anymore): World Health Organization Announces a New Commission to Fight Against Loneliness


On November 23, 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that loneliness is a “health threat” and created a new commission dedicated to help create connections between communities. “This WHO Commission will help establish social connection as a global health priority and share the most promising interventions,” said WHO’s Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. He further explained that “High rates of social isolation and loneliness around the world have serious consequences for health and well-being. People without enough strong social connections are at higher risk of stroke, anxiety, dementia, depression, suicide and more.” WHO aims to make connection with other people a priority in all countries in all levels of income. The commission is co-chaired by Dr. Vivek Murthy, a U.S. Surgeon General and Chido Mpemba, an African Union Youth Envoy, along with eleven others. The goal of the commission is to investigate and “analyse the central role social connection plays in improving health for people of all ages and outline solutions to build social connections at scale.” ( In other words, the commission hopes to find the answer to why connections are important in “fostering economic progress, social development, and innovation.” ( Known by WHO as The Commission on Social Connection, the commission is expected to hold its first leadership-level meeting on December 6-8, 2023. It will then release a flagship report addressing the findings during the middle of the three year period.
According to Dr. Vivek Murthy, in the published Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community, about one in two adults in America have reported experiencing loneliness in recent years. He also stated that during the COVID-19 pandemic, many experienced more loneliness and isolation. “The mortality impact of being socially disconnected is similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and even greater than that associated with obesity and physical inactivity,” said Dr. Murthy.
In other regions of the world, one in four adults experience loneliness and social isolation. However, loneliness is not only experienced by older people but it also affects the lives of many young people. The co-chair of the commission and African Union Youth Envoy, Chido Mpemba, said, “Across Africa and beyond, we must redefine the narrative around loneliness. Investments in social connection are critical to creating productive, resilient and stable economies that promote the well-being of current and future generations.” Mpemba further explained that loneliness went beyond borders and was becoming a global public health issue. “Social isolation knows no age or boundaries,” said Mpemba.
Before WHO announced its commission on Social Connection to address loneliness as a growing health threat in November, loneliness was already recognized as being a rising health concern in the United States and United Kingdom. On November 9, 2023, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, was appointed by Governor Kathy Hochul as New York state’s honorary ambassador to loneliness, the first of its kind in the United States. Not only did Governor Hochul appoint Dr. Ruth Westheimer as New York state’s first honorary ambassador for loneliness but she also aimed to create “age-friendly communities and build a more robust system of mental health care,” according to a news release. New York State’s Office for the Aging already adopted the initiative and worked with Dr. Westheimer to fight against loneliness and isolation.
Prior to WHO’s commission announcement and New York state’s appointment of ambassador to loneliness, Jo Cox, a late member of the British Parliament, had already established a commission to combat loneliness since 2016. Cox’s idea for the commission could be traced back to her own loneliness when she was at university. “I will not live in a country where thousands of people are living lonely lives forgotten by the rest of us,” Cox said. After her tragic murder in 2016, her work had been carried on by Prime Minister Theresa May, who appointed Tracy Crouch to be the first Minister for loneliness. Cox’s legacy will be carried on worldwide by WHO’s new commission on the importance of social connection.,a%20priority%20in%20all%20countries.

Loneliness and social isolation: a new decade of action

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About the Contributor
Anda Wattanakit, News Writer
Anda Wattanakit is a freshman. She loves to read, especially 19th-20th century novels. When she isn't on her couch reading, she is playing with her dog, Mochi, who has a special talent of sleeping all day.

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