The United Kingdom shelters 60 million people. However, almost 7% of the entire population feels lonely and sad. Maybe Prime Minister Theresa May isn’t concerned about the Brexit policies; but she definitely doesn’t want Britain to be a lonely island. According to May, loneliness is sad reality of the modern British society. To tackle this issue, May appointed Tracey Crouch as a minister of loneliness in the UK this January. Loneliness kills a person more quickly than 15 cigarettes can in a single day! But the real question, despite all this sad research, is: Does a country need a loneliness minister?
The British case in favour of the argument:
Loneliness is linked with physical ailments such cardiovascular diseases, blood pressure, dementia as well as psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies. However, is loneliness an issue so huge that entire nations need to have a separate ministry to address it? Statistics say, yes.
Take UK for instance. The ministry of loneliness in the UK did not start as a joke. Nor does it intend to mock the psychological and physical issues a person suffers from. Loneliness doesn’t discriminate. It affects the victim regardless of age, place, and time. Jo Cox, a formal Labour MP, who was brutally murdered on the streets by her political rivals, had observed and suffered loneliness firsthand.
It is to honour Cox’s legacy that the Jo Cox Commission Report studied loneliness in the British public. When the report revealed a staggering number – 9 million people said that they experience loneliness. This loneliness alone costs British employers a mind-boggling 2.5 billion pounds annually! Looks like being lonely affects the personal and the economic dynamics of a nation. For that reason alone, a ministry of loneliness is an initiative by the British Parliament that deserves to be replicated globally.
The case for India
India is a pendulum that is swinging between tradition and modernity. When people migrate from the rural areas to the urban ones in search of a better life, they are more often than not greeted with poverty, loneliness, and anxiety. It is unfortunate that the state of healthcare in India is highly privatized. And where healthcare is still the dominion of the Indian government – for instance, government hospitals – it isn’t doing a great job
A loneliness ministry in India is a faraway dream. Maybe a minister for loneliness in India is a subject for ridicule, but one cannot deny that India is a country that needs a ministry of loneliness more than any other nation. The transition from a societal community to an individualistic one isn’t going to be easy. But a loneliness ministry which takes its job seriously might just make the task easier. It doesn’t hurt to hope.
If the cure lies within, does a country need a loneliness minister at all?
With city spaces pushing the village greens to the sidelines and nuclear families replacing the joint ones – the world currently lives in a web of illusion. While internet works as an intricate web that connects people to each other, the real, genuine connections seem to fade away rapidly. In such a scenario, loneliness is inevitable.
But most of the people in the world confuse being lonely with being alone. One can be lonely while being surrounded by millions of people. This is precisely why, sometimes, even a ministry of loneliness cannot solve the real issue of being lonely. While a loneliness minister can help people to combat loneliness through building social architecture and crafting friendly policies for the ones in orphanages or old age homes; the key to battle loneliness lies in building authentic, long lasting connections with oneself and with the ones around us.
Meaningful engagement with the world around, giving more than taking from others, random acts of kindness – these are actions that just might make people feel a lot less lonely. For all these things, you probably don’t need a loneliness ministry. So, does a country need a loneliness minister? The answer is, maybe not.
A balanced view – What countries around the world are doing to tackle loneliness?
The problem with a ministry of loneliness is created when you begin to think that it is the key to cure your loneliness. Loneliness ministry can help to a great extent, but there are some things which you will have to take care of yourself.
Does a country need a loneliness minister? Or can it take smaller steps to introduce one small change at a time? Unlike the UK, there are various countries who don’t depend on a loneliness minister to make its citizens feel better. But they don’t sit back and watch an invisible disease snatch away the living ones either.
A nursing home in Netherlands has tie ups with a particular university, which allows the university students to live without paying rent in exchange of spending time with old people and helping the same to learn new skills in life.
Australia has something it calls Men Sheds, a shelter where men, women, and teenagers come together, socialize, support, and share new tools, experiences, and resources with each other. This allows for new ideas to come under one single roof and also makes the residents feel less lonely.
Singapore once faced a silver tsumani, where it witnessed a huge population of people who have aged. To ensure that the elderly don’t feel like a burden on the economy, Singapore introduced the Retirement and Re-employement Act. Under this Act, the government helped the elderly feel less lonely by giving them opportunities to continue working even after retirement.
In light of what many countries are doing to reduce their citizens’ loneliness or depression, does a country need a loneliness minister at all? The answer cannot exist as black or white. The answer actually lies in commending and applauding what a country does for its citizens. Loneliness, depression, anxiety – these and many more, are real, invisible issues that the naked eye cannot detect. But if a country like the UK is recognizing the underlying cause for the major hurdle affecting its culture and economy, it deserves to be appreciated and replicated (if required). After all, every country knows what is best for its own welfare.