Britain’s elderly - lonelier than ever. Where do they all belong?
Charlie Cooper is Health Correspondent for The Independent, i, and The Independent on Sunday, writing on the NHS, medical advances, and international health. Since joining the papers as an editorial assistant, he has been nominated for young journalist of the year at both the Press Awards and the British Journalism Awards.
Saturday 03 May 2014
Well over one million elderly people in the UK describe themselves as lonely often or all of the time, and many more consider their pet, or even the television, to be their most important form of company.
Age UK said that the findings from their latest loneliness survey revealed a significant increase in self-reported social isolation, with 10 per cent of people describing themselves as often or always lonely. This represents an increase of nearly 300,000 on last year’s survey.
The survey, conducted this month, consulted more than 2,000 people over the age of 65, of whom there are nearly 11 million in the UK.
Two in every five respondents said their main form of company was either their pet or the television. Nationally, this would be the equivalent of 4.3m people.
Loneliness has been identified as a key public health problem in recent years, as more people become cut off from society as they retire from work and lose their independence through disability.
Recent research in the US suggests that being lonely carried twice the health risk of obesity, with people who reported loneliness 14 per cent more likely than average to die in the course of the six-month study.
The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, highlighted loneliness in a speech last year, calling the plight of the “chronically lonely” a “national shame”. He said it was a problem which “in our busy lives we have utterly failed to confront as a society”.
However, Age UK’s director Caroline Abrahams said that funding cuts, which were brought in by the Coalition, were forcing many of the local services which help elderly people stay connected, such as lunch clubs, to close – increasing the work that the voluntary sector had to do.
“We know how devastating loneliness can be for older people and these figures are another reminder of the scale of the issue,” she said.
Kate Jopling, director for the Campaign to End Loneliness, added: “It should be a grave concern to health and social care managers that so many older people are now severely lonely. The evidence is clear that loneliness leads to avoidable ill health.
“If we fail to take this public health issue seriously now we may end up pushing already stretched services to breaking point.”
- 1 Malaysia issues arrest warrant for Gordon Brown’s sister-in-law after she publishes stories on leader Najib Razak's financial affairs
- 2 Porn block in India: hundreds of sexual websites banned, internet outraged
- 3 Natalia Molchanova: World's most successful free-diver missing and feared dead after disappearing in Mediterranean
- 4 Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
- 5 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
Jackie Chan in second place in Forbes' Highest Paid Actors list after magazine includes actors working outside US movie industry
Malaysia issues arrest warrant for Gordon Brown’s sister-in-law after she publishes stories on leader Najib Razak's financial affairs
Natalia Molchanova: World's most successful free-diver missing and feared dead after disappearing in Mediterranean
Giant Minion terrorises drivers in Ireland as 40ft inflatable blocks traffic on Dublin road
Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Labour leadership race: Jeremy Corbyn could be the next Prime Minister, says Ken Clarke
£35 - 38k + Benefits & Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Account Manager ...
£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This position will in the main ...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the top Cosmeceutical br...
£350 p/d (Contract): Guru Careers: A Software Developer / Web Developer (PHP /...