Loneliness and public policies

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For anyone interested in public policies and pro-welfare interventions in our environment, the emergence in the last years of the issue of loneliness as an object of concern, study and action cannot fail to be striking. The incorporation of the word “loneliness” to the name of a Ministry in the United Kingdom, in 2018, as a result of a report on the subject, which had been initially promoted by the murdered Labour MP (Member of Parliament) Jo Cox in 2016, can be seen as the fact that symbolizes these years of strong growth in interest about loneliness.

Logically, it should be understood that this outbreak of which we speak, although it may be related to conjunctural phenomena such as those mentioned, responds to more structural trends of social change, such as: increased longevity; transformations in family and community structures and dynamics; globalization and urbanization processes; the increase in economic inequality, job insecurity and residential segregation in our societies; or the diversification and individualization of people’s habits and values. On the other hand, the covid pandemic and several of the measures taken to deal with it (such as the use of masks, home confinements, restriction of activities and relationships, or increased physical interpersonal distance) clearly affect the relationships between people and, specifically, can influence the generation or accentuation of situations of loneliness.

A structural and integrated vision of public policy in the face of loneliness moves away from the interested and decontextualized use of the theme of loneliness as political entertainment to distract citizens and agents who work for well-being. Furthermore, a strategy or public policy against loneliness must be able to incorporate and promote activities and structures not explicitly referenced to loneliness. Although it is easy to explain how a palliative individual care program fits and functions for people in a recognized situation of loneliness, they will surely have a greater strategic impact in the medium term, in loneliness, transformative initiatives (from the public authority and the professional specialization) of urban and housing infrastructures or of the activities and participation opportunities that occur in the daily life of the communities and territories.

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