Scotland’s ‘loneliness epidemic’

No one should have no one

Loneliness is as likely to put us at risk of an early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and is worse for us than obesity and physical inactivity.

These shocking findings have been revealed by the Campaign to End Loneliness, a network of UK organisations working to ensure loneliness becomes a public health priority.

They’re not alone in identifying this as a major 21st century issue. New research by Age UK has found that nearly half a million people over the age of 60 usually spend every day alone.  A further half a million go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone. Two fifths of all older people say television is their main company.

At Leuchie we know loneliness affects many of our guests, increasingly so as their health deteriorates. That’s why the social side of Leuchie’s respite breaks is such a lifeline. A chance to chat, share experiences, have a laugh and enjoy a meal with others are all simple pleasures but can make us feel involved and reconnected again.

Last week the Executive Director of Samaritans Scotland wrote in another newspaper about Scotland’s ‘loneliness epidemic’.  He stressed that this is not just an older person’s issue but something that can affect all ages.

As well as all the social and emotional factors involved, research shows that loneliness is harmful to our health and associated with an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cognitive decline, clinical dementia, depression and suicide.

So what can we all do to tackle this endemic, and often hidden, problem? Solutions include each of us becoming ‘eyes on the ground’ to identify anyone who is lonely or at risk of becoming lonely. There are also lots of great befriending schemes, such as that run by Strive in East Lothian, which connect lonely people with someone local.  

At a higher level, the Scottish Government is at the early stages of developing a National Social Isolation Strategy.

Such is the scale of the problem, addressing loneliness is something we should all take on board.  No one should have no one.

Mairi O'Keefe, Chief Executive, Leuchie House. Published in The East Lothian Courier, 2 March 2017

  • Call us to find out more 01620 892 864