WHO Launches Commission on Social Connection to Address Global Loneliness Epidemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared loneliness a global health priority, forming a new Commission on Social Connection to tackle the pressing issue.

Loneliness has emerged as a significant health threat, affecting individuals of all ages and leading to adverse mental and physical health outcomes. Recognizing the urgency of the global loneliness epidemic, the WHO has established a Commission on Social Connection. Over the next three years, the commission, co-chaired by African Union Youth Envoy Chido Mpemba and US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, will focus on understanding the science behind loneliness and developing strategies to enhance social connections. With loneliness increasingly recognized as a critical public health issue, the commission aims to shed light on the impact of social isolation and drive meaningful change.

The Hidden Consequences of Loneliness

Loneliness, long overlooked, is now acknowledged as a profound threat to health. Driven by social isolation, it has been linked to a range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and suicide. Moreover, loneliness can have detrimental effects on physical health, increasing the risk of cardiovascular problems, stroke, and cognitive decline. The health impact of loneliness has been compared to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, emphasizing the urgency of addressing this issue.

A Global Crisis Across All Age Groups

While loneliness among older adults has received significant attention, recent research indicates that people of all ages can experience profound feelings of isolation. A survey conducted across 142 countries found that nearly one in four adults reported feeling lonely. Children and adolescents are not immune to loneliness, with studies revealing that over half of them experience loneliness at least some of the time. The Covid-19 pandemic has further exacerbated these feelings, particularly among young people, leading to increased depression and anxiety symptoms.

The Impact of Social Isolation During the Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns have severely limited social interactions, exacerbating feelings of loneliness and isolation. The absence of everyday social interactions has affected individuals’ ability to engage in social environments, leading to heightened anxiety. Younger people, who are hyperconnected through technology, have faced challenges in interacting with those who hold different perspectives. The polarized environment has further deterred social interaction, contributing to increased loneliness and isolation.

The Role of the WHO Commission on Social Connection

The newly formed WHO Commission on Social Connection aims to address the complex issue of loneliness by providing evidence-based strategies and interventions. By promoting social cohesion and connectedness, the commission seeks to improve health outcomes for individuals across all age groups. In addition to empowering individuals to combat loneliness within their communities, the commission aims to guide governments and the private sector in implementing effective interventions. The commission’s action-oriented approach and track record of success position it as a catalyst for change in addressing the global loneliness epidemic.


Loneliness has emerged as a pressing health threat, impacting individuals’ mental and physical well-being across the globe. The establishment of the WHO Commission on Social Connection signifies a critical step towards addressing this global epidemic. By fostering social connections and developing evidence-based strategies, the commission aims to mitigate the adverse effects of loneliness on individuals’ health outcomes. As the world grapples with the consequences of social isolation, it is essential to recognize the importance of social cohesion and take proactive measures to promote meaningful connections in our communities.






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