NEWS: The epidemic of loneliness
Loneliness is an epidemic that is likely to affect more people than ever before, says a new report from the Campaign to End Loneliness. Research from the campaign shows that 9 in 10 people believe that loneliness in older age is more likely than ever, with over half of British adults admitting that loneliness is difficult.
The problem is that most people don’t like to admit that they feel lonely, as they feel that this would place too much of a burden on others. 76% of those over the age of 65 who were surveyed said that they wouldn’t admit to being lonely, and yet an equal amount of people aged 16-24 want to help address the loneliness crisis.
The National Lottery funded Campaign to End Loneliness is working to help inspire those people that want to help to get involved in their local communities to help combat the problem of loneliness. And it is a problem, because being lonely can lead to both physical and mental health issues, as well as increase the risk of health issues being detected early on. Some later-life conditions, such as dementia, can be prevented or delayed through social contact, taking part in hobbies and staying active – all of which is harder for those who feel isolated and alone. Loneliness is, therefore, linked to a higher risk of dementia, as well as earlier death.
The London School of Economics (LSE) has released a review that shows the financial cost of loneliness too. It suggests that the epidemic costs £6,000 per person in health costs, and for every £1 invested now in tackling the problem of loneliness, there is an expected return of £3 in health costs over five years. When you consider that there are 1.2 million chronically lonely older people in the UK, and half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone (according to data from Age UK in 2016), it is not hard to see the scale of the problem that we are facing.
Laura Alcock-Ferguson, the Executive Director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, says: “There is much to do to overcome loneliness. The huge stigma surrounding it is clear, which is slowing down efforts to combat it. This is isolating millions of older people - and with our ageing population, the epidemic of loneliness is growing fast. The fact that over three-quarters of older people will not admit to feeling lonely is deeply worrying. The health impacts of loneliness are devastating; it is worse for you than obesity and as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Most worrying, however, is the popular view that loneliness in older age is more likely than ever – that loneliness is inevitable. But, with two thirds of people wanting to address the loneliness epidemic – and with compelling evidence that it pays to tackle loneliness – we know that we can challenge this. Loneliness is not inevitable.”
Find out more about the Campaign to End Loneliness on its website: https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/, where you can watch its new film The Loneliness Project.