Tackling loneliness and social isolation

Last month, both the Scottish and the UK governments recognised the effects of loneliness – now widely regarded as one of the most prolific public health issues of our time.

The UK government appointed the country’s first ever Minister for Loneliness.

On the same day, the Scottish government announced plans for a national strategy on loneliness and social isolation, looking at the causes and how they can be addressed.

This is a subject very close to our hearts at Leuchie and one you may recall I’ve written about before.

Affecting around 9 million people of all ages and backgrounds, loneliness is now known to lead to depression, and to increase the likelihood of older people developing dementia.

A range of factors are seen as putting us at greater risk, including major life transitions, such as bereavement, divorce, redundancy and retirement, as well as personal characteristics and health conditions.

As you’d expect, the latter is of great importance to us at Leuchie.  People with disabilities are one of the groups at greatest risk. As long-term conditions progress, so does social isolation.

Carers are also greatly affected. According to a recent report by Carers UK, 8 out of 10 carers feel lonely or socially isolated as a result of their caring role, due to limited opportunities to take part in social activities or even leave the house.

It is significant that more than half the carers taking part in the survey said regular breaks from their caring role, like those we provide at Leuchie, would make a difference in reducing their loneliness.  At Leuchie, we look forward to contributing to the consultation on the new strategy, and ensuring these factors are brought to the fore. 

The Scottish government believes that communities have a vital role to play in combatting loneliness and have highlighted kindness as a major factor in tackling the issue.  At the heart of their vision lies a kinder society where we are more kind and thoughtful to one another.

Our experiences at Leuchie fully support this. No one should have no one and a kind word or gesture can make such a difference.

Mairi O'Keefe, Chief Executive, Leuchie House. Published in The East Lothian Courier on 1 February 2018.