In 2017 there were lots of articles in the media highlighting the scale of feelings of loneliness and isolation in the UK. The statistics are staggering. Over 9 million adults say they are often or always lonely. That is not a typo – I did say 9 million!
This is an issue that covers all parts of our society. According to the Jo Cox Report on Loneliness:
- For 3.6 million people aged 65 and over television is the main form of company
- 43% of 17-25 year olds using Action for Children services experience problems with loneliness
- Over half of parents (52%) have a problem with loneliness
- 50% of disabled people will be lonely on any given day
- 38% of people with dementia said that they had lost friends after their diagnosis
- 58% of migrants and refuges in London described isolation as their biggest challenge
- 8 out of 10 carers have felt lonely or isolated as a result of looking after a loved one
- More than 1 in 3 people aged 75 and over say that feelings of loneliness are out of their control, and
- More than one in ten men say they are lonely but would not admit it to anyone.
The Report also highlights the social ‘costs’ as well as the human cost:
- Weak social connection is as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day
- Loneliness costs UK employers £2.5 billion per year
- Disconnected communities could be costing the UK economy £32 billion every year
- Three out of four GPs say that they see between 1 and 5 people a day who have come in mainly because they are lonely, and one in ten sees between six and ten such patients daily
A wide range of Charites and a new Parliamentary Group on loneliness are seeking to address these issues but I am a firm believer in things starting at ‘grass roots’. I have experienced loneliness myself (particularly when I had young children and couldn’t face another mother and baby group) and I see it in people around me. I believe we all have at some point been lonely and know of someone who is struggling.
I also believe that lonely people are a huge untapped source in our communities and the aim of Philotes is to combine helping individuals reconnect but also to help them to help others. More about that in the next blog.