Integrated Plus Link Officers attended a Westminster Briefing conference on 9th March in partnership with ‘The Campaign to End Loneliness’ to understand this largely unreported issue and what is currently being done to tackle it. The conference provided an opportunity to learn about the causes and consequences of loneliness and more importantly solutions to combat it.
Loneliness and isolation have a profound impact on the health and wellbeing of older populations and vulnerable people. There is a growing evidence base around the complex challenge of loneliness.
Here, is a summary provided at the conference from research undertaken.
Loneliness and social isolation in the United Kingdom
- 17% of older people are in contact with family, friends and neighbours less than once a week and 11% are in contact less than once a month (Victor et al, 2003)
- Over half (51%) of all people aged 75 and over live alone (ONS, 2010)
- Two fifths all older people (about 3.9 million) say the television is their main company (Age UK, 2014)
- 63% of adults aged 52 or over who have been widowed, and 51% of the same group who are separated or divorced report, feeling lonely some of the time or often (Beaumont, 2013)
- 59% of adults aged over 52 who report poor health say they feel lonely some of the time or often, compared to 21% who say they are in excellent health (Beaumont, 2013)
- A higher percentage of women than men report feeling lonely some of the time or often (Beaumont, 2013)
The impact of loneliness on our health
Loneliness is a bigger problem than simply an emotional experience. Research shows that loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health: lacking social connections is a comparable risk factor for early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is worse for us than well-known risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity.
For further information about the impact loneliness can have on our health, click here
What works in tackling loneliness?
Older people are often wrongly treated as a homogeneous group, and solutions are often not possible to standardise. This is an area of research that needs more work and debate. The most robust piece of research on this so far (Cattan, 2005) concludes there are three broad characteristics of a good loneliness intervention:
- Start with the individual – their interests, the type of experience they are facing: isolation or loneliness?
- Involve each person in shaping the activity
- There is more academically-robust-evidence that group interventions work at present, yet individual activities should still be tried and tested further
For further information about what works in tackling loneliness, check out our recently publishedguidance for local authorities.
Resources and reading
Latest research in this area is summarised in a quarterly Research Bulletin, which is sent exclusively to organisations and individuals who have signed up as supporters. Archived editions of the Bulletin can be found here.
The Research Bulletin is produced with the support of the Campaign to End Loneliness Research Hub
Publications that summarise the evidence base on loneliness include: