Pandemic spreads isolation, and nations struggle to cope

“I did not have many friends to contact even before,” said the 34-year-old, who works at a city government office near Tokyo. Then the pandemic forced reductions in activities that kept him connected, like going to singles’ mixers.

“The coronavirus has made me realize I’m lonely,” he said.

Recent data suggest many more people are having the same experience, and that is changing the thinking of some governments.

Japan recently named a loneliness and isolation minister, following the U.K.’s example from three years ago. Diana Barran, who now holds the U.K. loneliness minister post, said Covid-19 was an opportunity to destigmatize the issue.

“In some ways it has been a much easier argument to make during the pandemic,” said Baroness Barran. “Everyone knows what it feels like.”