Loneliness Declared a Public Health Crisis in San Mateo

Loneliness Declared a Public Health Crisis in San Mateo

San Mateo County has made history by being the first in the nation to officially recognize loneliness as a public health crisis. This significant declaration was made through a resolution passed by the county’s board of supervisors on Tuesday, as stated in a county media advisory.

There has been an increasing awareness of the detrimental effects of loneliness in recent years. A recent study conducted by UCSF has found a concerning link between social isolation and higher mortality rates. In line with this, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory in May, highlighting the fact that social disconnection can increase the risk of premature death to a similar extent as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. A recent study conducted by Cigna reveals that a significant majority of Americans, surpassing 60%, experience feelings of loneliness.

Canepa is suggesting that California should establish a position similar to the “minister of loneliness” roles found in the UK and Japan.

Tuesday’s resolution is the outcome of extensive planning and data analysis conducted over a period of seven months.

According to the county’s 2023 Community Health Needs Assessment, the percentage of respondents in San Mateo County who reported struggling with isolation or loneliness has increased from 32.7% in 2018 to 45.2% in the 2022 Health and Quality of Life Survey.

According to Canepa, implementing certain policies could involve creating infrastructure that promotes face-to-face interaction, like pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods. Additionally, utilizing social media advertising can help individuals find local groups and clubs to join.

He aims to target a wide range of age groups, with a particular emphasis on 16- to 24-year-olds, who are known to be more active on social media. The county will also maintain its commitment to the World Health Organization’s Age-Friendly Cities Framework, ensuring that senior citizens have access to support networks and community events.

In addition to presenting the resolution, he expressed that Canepa’s office has also sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, urging the establishment of an Office of Loneliness to tackle the issue of loneliness in the state. Offices in the UK and Japan have implemented networks and projects that utilize social media and local organizations to raise awareness about the matter.

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