The UK’s age structure is changing. By 2050 it is projected 1 in 4 people will be over 65 . Our ageing population is struggling with loneliness, with half a million older people going 5 or 6 days without speaking to anyone at all. There are 1.4 million chronically lonely older people in England which comes with damaging health implications. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened mental health issues and increased social isolation for the most vulnerable in society. This Loneliness Awareness Week, we join the conversation and aim to raise awareness of loneliness.
Loneliness and health
Chronic loneliness is as damaging to someone’s physical health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day (APA, 2021). Approximately 50% of individuals over 60 experience social isolation and a recent study showed people who are lonely have a 20% faster cognitive decline rate than those who are not lonely. Loneliness can negatively impact a person’s mental health and increases the risk of depression, insecurity and stress. With physical and mental health affected by loneliness and social isolation, this societal problem needs to be addressed.
So, what can be done to reduce this?
Things to try that can help with loneliness:
- Talk to family and friends
- Open up, speak to people about your feelings
- Befriending services (such as Age UK)
- Join a new group
- Get out and about
A study showed a way to alleviate loneliness was to stay in contact with family and friends, however, 3.8 million over 65s live alone, and are in need of some form of connection. Digital technologies can bridge the gap between hard-to-reach groups and their families and friends. Video calling is second nature to most people, but for the older population this isn’t something that is easy to do. Simple and easy to use technology can be deployed to help reduce loneliness to those who are currently socially isolated.
This Loneliness Awareness week, reach out to your elderly family, friends and neighbours and help reduce loneliness in the older population.