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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UK’s Minister of Loneliness: What About Here on the Peninsula?

As+many+students+already+know%2C+loneliness+does+not+spare+the+young.+With+so+much+social+media%2C+it+seems+as+though+younger+people+should+be+feeling+less+alone+and+isolated+since+they+are+always+connected.

As many students already know, loneliness does not spare the young. With so much social media, it seems as though younger people should be feeling less alone and isolated since they are always connected.

In mid-January, United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May announced the appointment of the first-ever Minister of Loneliness. The recipient of the position is Britain’s current Under-Secretary for Sport and Civil Society, Tracey Crouch.

At first glance, the title “Minister of Loneliness” may come off as silly, but the appointment was made in response to a growing problem. According to a 2017 report published by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, over nine million people in the UK “often or always feel lonely.”

Jo Cox, the leader of the commission, was a Labour Party lawmaker who was murdered by a right-wing extremist in 2016. The Minister of Loneliness position, and the work being done in respect to the department, is meant to continue the work that Cox did as a lawmaker, and create a legacy for that work. The focus of the new ministry will be to address loneliness experienced by the elderly in the United Kingdom. According to research done by the Commission on Loneliness, “around 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month.”

Such comprehensive research pertaining to loneliness has not been carried out in the United States. Polls about loneliness and its causes tend to vary. Although we don’t have exact numbers on how many people experience loneliness in America, the health risks associated with loneliness are becoming more clear. National Public Radio reports that “feelings of social isolation can have profound health effects; according to a government commission, loneliness is as bad for people’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”

So, where does this leave us, students of the University of Massachusetts Boston, who are in class two to five times a week and are, quite literally, graded on participation? As many students already know, loneliness does not spare the young. With so much social media, it seems as though younger people should be feeling less alone and isolated since they are always connected. A study published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, though, found the opposite to be true. According to the report, higher social media use may be the cause of Perceived Social Isolation (PSI) among younger generations. The results found that “participants in the highest quartile had twice the odds of having greater PSI… Similarly, compared with those in the lowest quartile, those in the highest quartile of social media usage frequency had more than three times the odds of having greater PSI.”

It is well known that UMass Boston has many clubs and activities available to students, which provide a great social outlet for those feeling like they need some more face-to-face social interactions. However, if feelings of social isolation become too great and manifest into depression or anxiety, there are counseling services on campus.

The Counseling Center is located on the second floor of the Quinn Administration Building and provides a range of options. The Center is staffed by five full-time counselors, along with a group of Ph.D. students. There is no waitlist to see a counselor; students need only ask and they will get an introductory appointment to better understand their needs. Group sessions are also available and times vary from semester to semester. The Counseling Center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. In the case of an emergency, walk-ins are always welcome.