Loneliness a 'major public health concern'

Loneliness a 'major public health concern'

Further action is needed to be taken to address the on-going problem with loneliness across the UK, councils have warned.

It is thought that there are more than a million people over the age of 65 are lonely, accounting for more than one in ten of all those in this demographic.

Because of this, councils are saying that the matter needs to be recognised as a major public health concern, especially as there are worries that the problem could become much worse.

Loneliness can have a serious impact on a person's health - both physical and mental. It is thought that it can increase the risk of premature death by up to 30 per cent, while it can lead to raised blood pressure and even put people at a higher risk of developing conditions like dementia.

As well as the personal cost to an individual's wellbeing and mental health, loneliness can have a massive impact on health and care services, as it can cause additional referrals to adult social care and more visits to the GP.

More than three-quarters of GPs say they see up to five patients a day who experience loneliness. 

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils, highlighted examples of where activities and services, which can often be run through care homes, can help tackle loneliness.

There programme Combating Loneliness, which it has officially launched at the Annual Public Health Conference, has been produced, along with Age UK, in a bid to try and end the problem.

Councillor Izzi Seccombe, LGA spokesperson for public health, said: "Loneliness is a significant and growing concern for many older people and is something that is now being identified as a major public health issue."

She said the impact of loneliness can be devastating and costly, and the consequences are comparable to that of smoking and obesity, but said early intervention can prevent it.

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