We can all help older people fight loneliness
Published on 12 April 2013 11:30 AM
The extent of the nation's loneliness problem has been revealed in a new study this week, with older people found to be particularly at risk.
One in three people in their 50s or above, and nearly half of those over 80, suffer loneliness, says a report released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Age UK said everyone can help fight this growing problem by visiting older relatives, friends and neighbours.
Women were more likely to experience isolation, said the report, with widows (63%) likely to suffer more than any other group.
Those aged 80 or over were also more likely to feel isolated, said the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.
Almost half said they experienced loneliness some of the time or often, compared with 34% of all those aged 52 or over.
Laura Ferguson, director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, said isolation is more dangerous than many thought, adding: 'Physically, being lonely is the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day in terms of causes of early death.'
Over-80s most likely to be lonely
Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General at Age UK, said: 'All the evidence shows that it is the over 80s who are the most likely to be lonely.
'As we get older, we are more likely to suffer illness and disability which can prevent us from getting out and about, and people's social networks often shrink due to life-changing events such as retirement and bereavement which can increase the risk of becoming lonely.
'At Age UK we are extremely concerned that cuts to local authority budgets are exacerbating the problem of loneliness and isolation for many older people.
'The ongoing crisis in the provision of social care means that large numbers of older people are missing out on essential care that could make the difference between staying active and becoming isolated.
'Feeling lonely not only makes us miserable, it increases our risk of developing serious mental and physical health problems - research demonstrates it is as bad for your health as moderate smoking and is worse for us than obesity.
'We can all do our bit to help fight this growing problem by making time for older relatives and checking in on older friends and neighbours that we know.
'Age UKs across the country provide support to older people to help them stay active and well, ranging from lunch clubs to exercise classes.
'But the Government must also take action to address the huge gap in social care funding to help millions of older people up and down the country who are in urgent need of support.'
Copyright Press Association 2013