Healthcare that is preventive rather than reactive is key if this epidemic is to be tackled effectively

Loneliness is thought to be a universal, inevitable, even psychological affliction. Not only the United Kingdom but also vast swaths of post-industrial populations across Europe, the United States and Japan report heightened levels of loneliness, with attendant implications for public health.

The findings of a recent BBC loneliness survey – that a third of respondents (55,000 in the UK) often felt lonely, that there was shame attached, that it could affect people of all life stages, that it was connected to social media use and linked with ill health – flesh out the detail behind discussion of a “loneliness epidemic”. But neither the physicality of loneliness, nor its origins, received much emphasis in the study. And as its history makes clear, loneliness is more complex than much of the current analysis suggests.

Before 1800, the English word ‘loneliness' did not exist

Related: Lonely people need local connections – don’t make a song and dance of it | Geraldine Bedell

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Mental health is a level of psychological well-being, or an absence of a mental disorder; it is the "psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment".

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17 November 2018