Before she was assassinated in 2016, British lawmaker Jo Cox established a commission on loneliness and pushed the government to appoint a minister to tackle the problem affecting an estimated 9 million Britons, from the very young to the elderly.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that Tracey Couch is the new minister for loneliness, serving as an advocate for those who "have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with." Many people in the U.K. are distressed by "the sad reality of modern life," May said, and government research has found that about 200,000 elderly people haven't spoken with a friend or relative in more than a month, Time reports.
Researchers say isolation can lead to a higher risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as mental and emotional issues. You don't have to be the minister of loneliness to do your part — pick up the phone and offer to drive an elderly relative or friend to an appointment or lunch, drop by with a hot meal, or ask if they'd like to join you in a group activity. Catherine Garcia