Loneliness and Increasing Load of Non-Communicable Diseases, A New Challenge for Global Health System

Loneliness is a state where individuals feel a social disconnect and lack companionship which impacts their mental well-being. Research has shown that more than 6% of the global population experience mental disorders. Chronic loneliness is associated with an increased risk of depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, and even premature mortality. As social networks and community connections weaken, individuals may face difficulties accessing support systems and resources necessary for maintaining good health.

Loneliness is a subjective feeling, but its associated risks hamper the overall well-being of individuals. Due to this, the incidence of Hypertension, Cardiovascular Problems, Brain Strokes, and Diabetes has been found higher incidences termed as lifestyle diseases. These health conditions broadly fall into non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

As per the global research study, loneliness can contribute to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, which are risk factors for NCDs. Addressing loneliness and promoting social connectedness can help mitigate the risk of mental health disorders and their associated impact on NCDs. It can lead to unhealthy lifestyle behaviors such as poor diet, sedentary behavior, and substance abuse, which are significant contributors to NCDs across the globe.

The increasing burden of NCDs places a strain on healthcare systems globally, especially in the post-Covid 19 world. This has included challenges related to prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and long-term management. Addressing loneliness and its impact on NCDs requires an integrated and holistic approach that encompasses both medical and social support systems as the challenges arising from these two must be seen as interconnected.

Encouraging community engagement, fostering social support networks, and leveraging technology for social interaction can help combat loneliness and its adverse health effects. Enhancing mental health, the National Mental Health Program (NMHP) has been launched by the Government of India, can help in early detection, and interventions to address the psychological impacts of loneliness and reduce the associated risks.

The challenges posed by loneliness and the increasing burden of NCDs require a collaborative effort involving governments, healthcare providers, communities, and individuals themselves at the global level. Recognizing these challenges and implementing comprehensive strategies at the national government level can mitigate the impact on global health and individual well-being over time.