1st county in US names loneliness a public health emergency

California's San Mateo County has declared loneliness a public health emergency, making it the first county in the nation to do so. 

A resolution on the declaration was passed by the county's Board of Supervisors on Jan. 30. The vice president of the Board of Supervisors, David Canepa, told NBC News the measure is meant to promote social connection across San Mateo, where nearly 20% of the population is 65 or older. In 2022, the county conducted a survey that found 45% of its residents were experiencing loneliness and isolation. 

The resolution itself does not allocate funds for programs to reduce loneliness, though Mr. Canepa said a county fund subsidized by sales fax may help support efforts to foster social connection, such as investing in infrastructure to make neighborhoods more walkable. 

"What we're trying to do is to really get people out of the corners and say, 'Hey, look, there are a lot of people who are feeling like you. You are not alone. And moving forward, here are some of the things we can do to support you,'" Mr. Canepa told NBC News

The declaration was inspired by a growing body of research that has tied loneliness to health consequences such as increased risks for dementia, heart conditions, depression and anxiety. 

Over the past year, global leaders heightened their focus on loneliness. In November, the World Health Organization deemed it a "pressing health issue" and organized a committee to study the role of social connection in people's health and craft solutions to bolster social ties at a global level. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, who is co-chairing the WHO's committee to address loneliness, released an advisory last spring calling attention to the public health crisis posed by loneliness and isolation in the U.S. 

Dr. Murthy praised San Mateo County's effort in a Feb. 2 post on X, formerly Twitter.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars