ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Economy Watch (PEW) on Sunday said many countries around the world are facing a loneliness epidemic which is not only damaging the social fabric but also costing around 300 billion dollars per annum. The changing social structure, preference to live alone, avoiding marriages or delaying it, migration, over-dependence on technology and other factors have resulted in social isolation which is hitting elderly more than others, it said. Loneliness is adding to the healthcare costs and it is considered more dangerous than smoking and obesity by many experts, said Dr. Murtaza Mughal, President PEW. He said that the US is spending an additional seven billion dollars due to loneliness while 6000 pounds have been added to per capita healthcare cost elderly in the UK. Fifty percent people in Paris love alone, 60 percent people live alone in the Stockholm while 31 percent homes have only one member, he added. Murtaza Mughal said that the number of close friends has declined sharply in the US in the last fifteen years while the number of people having no close friend has tripled. The rural population in China is halved resulting in mental problems associated with loneliness while every fourth person in Japan is aged. Many elderly in Japan involve themselves in petty crimes so that they can land in jail where they find company. The family system is still intact in the Islamic countries, therefore, the situation is far better in these nations, he said.