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Loneliness a ‘major public health concern’


The number of lonely over-50s will increase by 49% a new report by Age UK has said.

Analysing figures from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), the charity concluded that the amount of older people experiencing feelings of loneliness and social isolation will increase to 2 million by 2026 due to the increase in life expectancy.  

The report also highlighted that loneliness is driven by circumstance, and that an older person is five times more likely to be lonely if they have been widowed and three times more likely if they are in poor health.

Age UK’s Charity Director, Caroline Abrahams, said: 

“Our population is ageing quite fast and so we’re heading towards having two million lonely over-50s in less than a decade, with serious knock on consequences for their physical and mental health, and therefore for the NHS, unless we take action now.

“This is why the Government’s forthcoming Loneliness Strategy is so timely and important: it needs to contain a raft of measures to prevent and address loneliness among people of all ages, plus enough resources so they can be implemented. The Government cannot ‘solve loneliness’ on its own, but it can ensure the foundations are in place so all of us can play our part, as neighbours, relatives, friends, employers and volunteers.”

Depression, anxiety and a lack of confidence are just some of the health problems that plague lonely and socially isolated older people. Contact the Elderly are working closely with local organisations across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to try and alleviate this growing epidemic.

Read our top tips on how to spot the signs of loneliness:

  1. Verbal cues – Your friend, relative or client might mention that they are feeling lonely and ask for help. However, many older people find it difficult to admit they are lonely. It’s important that you listen out for other verbal cues that could suggest feelings of loneliness and social isolation, like saying they don’t have any friends or that they feel like they do not get out very much.  
  2. A change in behaviour - Loneliness is often linked with depression and you should look out for any significant changes in behaviour. They may be particularly self-deprecating or be withdrawn when you try to engage in conversation. If you are worried about a relative or friend you should always encourage them to visit their GP or reach out to mental Health charity Mind.
  3. Bereavement – It is devastating when someone close to you dies and the thought of dealing with life after losing a partner can be daunting at any age. According to Age UK, Sixty-three per cent of adults aged 52 who have been widowed admit to feeling lonely. There is no wrong or right way to cope with grief, but talking can help. Encourage them to reach out to helpline Cruse who offer a variety of bereavement services.
  4. Sleep – Are they getting enough sleep? Feeling lonely reportedly increases your chances of not getting good nights sleep. Look out for signs of exhaustion, like chronic fatigue, lack of appetite and irritability.

If you know of an older person who you think might be suffering from social isolation or loneliness, please refer them to us via our website, or call 0800 716543 for more information.  

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