Theresa May has appointed minister for sport and civil society Tracey Crouch to a newly created position as minister for loneliness.
The move comes as the prime minister backed a series of recommendations made by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, which highlighted the prevalence of the problem and its impact on both individuals and society.
MP Jo Cox, who campaigned to find ways to combat loneliness, was murdered by far-right terrorists in 2016.
The Commission highlighted research showing that more than nine million people are “always or often feel lonely” and that around 200,000 older adults have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month.
The findings also showed that up to 85 per cent of young disabled adults age 18 to 34 feel lonely.
“For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life,” said May.
“I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones – people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.”
A dedicated fund will be established so the government can work with charitable trusts, foundations and others to find solutions, provide seed-funding for communities to develop activities for people to connect, and scale-up existing projects that offer community support to lonely people.
Work has begun on a strategy on loneliness in England to be published later this year, which will bring together government, local government, public services, the voluntary and community sector and businesses, to identify opportunities to tackle loneliness and build more integrated and resilient communities.
The government’s What Works centres will lead efforts to develop the evidence base on the impact of initiatives in tackling loneliness, and the Office for National Statistics will establish indicators of loneliness across all ages for use in major research studies.
Crouch said: “I'm privileged to be taking forward the remarkable work done by Jo Cox, the Foundation and the Commission.
"This is an issue Jo cared passionately about and we'll honour her memory by tackling it, helping the millions of people across the UK who suffer from loneliness.”
Recent studies have shown that loneliness is twice as unhealthy as obesity
, and its prevalence is growing.
Spa Business highlighted loneliness in its 2015 Foresight
, and suggested there is a role for spa and wellness centres to play to help combat it.