Cross-party commission calls for a new national strategy to combat loneliness

Ministers should take action to make tackling loneliness a top priority across all departments, according to the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission.
Loneliness is now a ‘social epidemic’. NHS England has found it can increase the risk of premature death by a third.

The Commission report to be published on Friday says:

"There is currently a gap in national leadership on loneliness. While central Government cannot solve loneliness alone, it can play a role in galvanising the key players, catalysing action, assessing and comparing progress, and holding those who need to act accountable."

The report calls for:

  • A UK wide strategy for loneliness across all ages, led by Government, but built on the insight, expertise and capacity of many others including the NHS, voluntary and community sector and business. The national strategy should be underpinned by equivalent strategies at the local level (on the model of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy), with central Government reporting annually to Parliament on progress in reducing loneliness.
  • A nominated lead Minister to drive action on loneliness across Government, with lead responsibility for the development and implementation of the loneliness strategy
  • Easy-to-understand messages to help individuals connect with others and avoid loneliness
  • Further development of the current Family Test to become a Family and Relationships Test, through which every new Government policy is assessed for its impact on relationships and connections between individuals, within families, and across communities
  • Government to work together with trusts, foundations and corporate funders to create an innovation and spread fund

While government action is essential, the report makes clear that we must all play our part.

"Tackling loneliness is a generational challenge that can only be met by concerted action by everyone - governments, employers, businesses, civil society organisations, families, communities and individuals all have a role to play. Working together we can make a difference."

The final report of the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission will be published in her former constituency of Batley and Spen on Friday, December 15th. It will be presented by the joint chairs of the Commission, Rachel Reeves MP and Seema Kennedy MP. They will be joined by Jo’s sister, Kim Leadbeater, as well as expert witnesses who have faced loneliness themselves or have first-hand experience of how it can be tackled.

The Commission was established by Jo Cox before her murder in June 2016 and has been continued to carry forward her determination to turbo-charge the national response.

'I will not live in a country where thousands of people are living lonely lives forgotten by the rest of us.' – Jo Cox MP

The cross-party Commission, which is supported by thirteen leading charities and businesses, notes that loneliness affects people of all ages and has a profoundly damaging impact on the nation’s health, wellbeing and economy.

  • Over 9 million adults are often or always lonely;
  •  Loneliness is as harmful to health as obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day;
  • Three-quarters of GPs say they see up to five patients every day who are lonely;
  • Loneliness is estimated to cost employers £2.5 billion every year.

Rachel Reeves and Seema Kennedy will say:

“This report shares the ideas the Commission has worked on over the past year, and it challenges national government to step forward and lead a renewed push to tackle loneliness. But we know that loneliness will not end until we all recognise the role we can play in making that happen.

“Jo always looked forwards, not back: she would have said that what matters most now are the actions, big and small, that people take in response to the Commission’s work. That’s a responsibility for all of us.”

In a statement this week, Professor Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said: “I welcome the Jo Cox Commission’s work to raise awareness of and take action to alleviate loneliness. Social isolation can have a devastating impact not only on people’s mental well-being, but evidence shows that it can also increase the risk of premature death by around a third.

“NHS staff see first-hand the acute consequences of loneliness, which can affect so many people of all ages.

“This has profound implications for the NHS, especially over winter when our hospitals, community services and GPs are already over-stretched. Our advice is for people to keep a friendly eye on relatives, friends and neighbours, as this simple act could prevent serious illness and even save lives.”

In response to the final report, Sense Deputy CEO Richard Kramer said:

"Loneliness damages your health. Our research shows that loneliness is disproportionally high amongst disabled people, many of whom say they feel lonely every single day. That’s why Sense welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the work of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, and raise awareness of and take action to alleviate social isolation.

We hope that today’s report is an opportunity for us all to reflect on how we can work with disabled people to ensure that they play a full part in society, with the same opportunities to make connections as everybody else.”