Doctors in England will be encouraged to write prescriptions for social activities rather than medication in a new approach to combat loneliness.
The government hopes to have its new strategy in place by 2023, when lonely people could receive prescriptions for activities such as cooking or dancing classes, walking groups or art clubs.
British prime minister Theresa May said it was important “to highlight the critical importance of this growing social injustice which sits alongside childhood obesity and mental well-being as one of the greatest public health challenges of our time.”
In recent years, experts say loneliness has increased because of longer lifespans, families being more spread out geographically and cuts to social programs. As an example, May said nearly 200,000 elderly people hadn’t talked with a relative or friend in more than a month. And the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness reported more than 9 million people in the UK always or often feel lonely.
And it’s not just Britain with a problem. In a survey of 20,000 U.S. adults, Cigna reported that almost half of Americans reported sometimes or always feeling alone.
Besides being a social issue, loneliness may also be a health issue.
On the mental health side, loneliness has been associated with increased levels of depression and anxiety. It also has been linked to illnesses including Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, immune system problems and strokes.
More from Everybody Lives Well
See also, Study: Mediterranean Diet Could Lower Chances Of Depression
Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.