British Columbia

Seniors expert applauds U.K. move to appoint Ministry of Loneliness

A gerontology research director at Simon Fraser University is applauding British Prime Minister Theresa May for appointing a Minister for Loneliness.

Minister is tasked with developing policies to address loneliness among British citizens

About one in five people experience loneliness according to Andrew Wister, the Director of the Gerontology Research Centre at Simon Fraser University.

In a world filled with technology, which can help improve our connectivity but can also push us further apart, loneliness is a widespread and persistent problem.

It's an issue Britain has been addressing for years, particularly since its launch of the Campaign to End Loneliness in 2011.

But Prime Minister Theresa May has taken the British government's approach one step further, by establishing a Ministry of Loneliness.

MP Tracey Crouch was appointed to the job and has been tasked with developing policies to address what May has described as the "sad reality of modern life."

Andrew Wister, director of the Gerontology Research Centre at Simon Fraser University, supports the concept.

Affects one in five

"I think it's a great idea. It's very innovative and I think the U.K. are ahead of us," Wister said

He describes loneliness as the perception of being disconnected from others and says it affects about one in five people.

The problem is exacerbated by age and Wister says that addressing loneliness would not only help struggling individuals, it would reduce strain on the health system.

"We know that [loneliness] affects mortality, morbidity, depression and lowers well-being," Wister told On the Coast host Gloria Macarenko.

Wister said those who are marginalized in some way, such as LGBTQ people, Indigenous people, or those living in poverty are also at risk for loneliness.

Listen to the full interview with Andrew Wister:

With files from CBC Radio One's On the Coast