Should Canada develop a strategy to combat the growing problem of loneliness?

It's fast becoming a major public health concern in the Western world. Britain just named a Minister of Loneliness to deal with it in the U.K.. Should Canada develop a strategy to manage growing social isolation and its corrosive effect on health? With host Duncan McCue
Should Canada develop a strategy to manage growing social isolation and its corrosive effect on health? (Shutterstock)
Listen to the full episode1:53:00

Loneliness

We've all felt it.

That deep sadness... that feeling that one has no friends... no company.

Yet, people rarely talk about being lonely. Loneliness isn't necessarily solitude. It's a longing... we dare not speak of.

Perhaps we should. Because in this Age of Connectivity, we may be lonelier than ever before. 
Host of Cross Country Checkup, Duncan McCue. (Kevin Van Paassen)

Statistics Canada reports that 1.4 million seniors say they're lonely. But it's not only the elderly. Young people too—teens and twenty-somethings—are experiencing epidemic levels of loneliness. 

Loneliness isn't only making us sad. It's fast becoming a public health crisis in the Western world.

Lonely people are more likely to get sick. Chronic loneliness is as harmful to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness is even more damaging to your body than obesity and diabetes and has been linked to high blood pressure, dementia and premature death.

What do you think is at the root of loneliness? In some, it's linked to anxiety and depression. But more Canadians than ever live alone and a quarter of them say they're lonely. Could we do a better job of designing public spaces? Is social media making us more connected—or less?

On Jan. 17,  Britain named a Minister of Loneliness to tackle the problem. In Canada, Manitoba has a minister responsible for ensuring that seniors stay engaged socially, but there's currently no national strategy to help those who feel lonely. Do you think loneliness is a problem governments can resolve? How do we deal with the fact that people don't connect with their elderly relatives?

Our question: "Should Canada develop a strategy to combat the growing problem of loneliness?"

Guests

Brian Goldman, ER physician and the host of CBC Radio One's White Coat Black Art.

Brian Primack, director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health at the University of Pittsburgh (School of Medicine), author of a study on social media and young adults.

Charles Montgomery, author of Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design. (2013)

Susan Pinker, Montreal clinical psychologist who discussed loneliness in her 2014 book, The Village Effect: Why Face-to-Face Contact Matters.