According to the Office of National Statistics, the UK is the loneliness capital of Europe.
I think we can look at loneliness through the prism of nature’s warning signs.
Like hunger is nature’s way of telling us that we need food or pain that our body is sick or damaged and needs repair; feeling lonely tells us we need to connect.
Just last month, Helen Stokes-Lampard, Head of the Royal College of GPs, said that loneliness can be as bad for your health as a chronic long-term condition. Figures suggest it’s as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Loneliness could be quietly killing us and we’re not talking about it.
One person did talk about it though – my friend and colleague Jo Cox. For Jo, however big and complex a problem was, there was always a solution.
Jo came into Parliament in 2015, wanting to do something about loneliness. For her it was personal. Jo’s grandad was a postman. And as a young girl, Jo would accompany him on his rounds, stopping and chatting to people as he delivered their post. Jo came to realise that for some people that conversation with her grandad might be the only interaction they had that entire day.
Then when Jo went to university she experienced loneliness first-hand. She missed her friends and family, particularly, her sister Kim, with whom she was so close and took a while to make real friends.
And through her work and later, campaigning in Batley and Spen, knocking on doors and attending community events, she saw how many people were lonely and how loneliness was a lived reality for too many people.
Jo is well-known for her talent in bridging political divides and building cross-party alliances. She teamed up with Seema Kennedy, Conservative MP for South Ribble to establish a Commission on Loneliness, bringing together 13 organisations. After Jo’s murder, Seema reached out to me and we embarked on a year long piece of work in Jo’s name. I am incredibly proud to be able to take forward Jo’s work with her friends, family, colleagues and all the people she inspired.
I have been truly shocked by some of the statistics. One of our partners, Sense, found that one in four of us admitted to avoiding conversations with disabled people, because they think they don’t have anything in common with them.
While Carers UK surveyed carers around the country and found the sobering …