Doctors in Britain are thinking outside the box — or, rather, outside the pill bottle — to tackle a pervasive health crisis: loneliness.
Prime Minister Theresa May recently announced an initiative where doctors will be encouraged to "prescribe" social activities like dance classes, cooking classes, and walking clubs to patients who are chronically lonely.
Britain isn't the only place facing this issue — chronic loneliness is on the rise in the United States, too. In the last 50 years, rates of loneliness in the U.S. have doubled. The consequences can be dire: one recent study compared the reduction of a person's lifespan from social isolation to smoking 15 cigarettes per day.
Medical ethicist Arthur Caplan of New York University's Langone Medical Center praised the UK for addressing loneliness with preventative care.
"I like it partly because it recognizes a problem," Caplan told Boston Public Radio Wednesday.
He predicted that loneliness will only continue to become a bigger public health issue as America's Baby Boomer generation ages.
"Look, most of us are going to encounter this problem," Caplan said. "Things that facilitate social contact — making friends, having activities — we can't overestimate how important this is."