It is estimated that a quarter of the world's population this week are in some kind of self-isolation as nations large and small impose a lockdown to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
In todays's public service announcement brought to you by commonspace.eu, Will Murray discusses loneliness and says it is crucial that we pay attention to the seemingly small things that over time can have a major effect on our mental health.
A 2018 study by the European Commission estimated that 7% of EU adults or around 30 million Europeans frequently report feeling lonely, with figures as high as 10% in certain countries such as Italy, France, and Greece. At the time of the report, 18% of people surveyed were considered socially isolated - 'those stating that they meet socially with friends, relatives or work colleagues at most once a month' . With statistics showing that approximately one third (32.5% in 2016) of EU households consist of just one person, and with mandated or highly-recommended isolation taking place across the continent, we can expect that the number of people feeling lonely over the next few months will be a lot higher.
Studies have shown loneliness to have a similar effect on mortality rates to tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption. It can lead to anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, and - most notably at present - a weakened immune system . The Campaign to End Loneliness has made a number of suggestions to keep the affliction at bay during this period of isolation:
- 'Call your friends, colleagues and relatives regularly on the phone and see how they are. Create WhatsApp groups with neighbours, family or friends.'
- 'Share how you're getting on and ask other people how they are.'
- 'Ask a friend to cook a meal, watch a film or read a book at the same time as you on Skype or FaceTime.'
- 'Use Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date and keep in touch.' 
As schools, universities and workplaces close their doors, we're likely to have a lot of time on our hands - if you haven't heard from someone in a while, why not call them up to see how they are doing? The next few months will be tough for many and we have a responsibility to keep an eye on each other and make this period as pleasant as possible.
This public service announcement was written by Will Murray for commonspace.eu. This article is based on research from the following sources:
 EU Commission - 'Loneliness - an unequally shared burden in Europe'
 Eurostat - 'People in the EU - statistics on household and family structures'
 Social isolation - loneliness in older people pose health risks
 Campaign to End Loneliness - 'An update on Coronavirus (COVID-19) and social connections'
Useful Coronavirus Information:
Fifthsense - 'COVID-19 (Corona Virus) And Smell Loss - Guidance From Fifth Sense Medical Director, ENT UK And The British Rhinological Society'
BBC News - 'Coronavirus: The fake health advice you should ignore'
Federation of European Microbiologists: https://fems-microbiology.org/expert-update-on-the-sars-cov2-coronavirus-causing-the-covid-19-outbreak/
World Health Organization advice: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
John Hopkins University dashboard:
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