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The Silent Epidemic – Loneliness

Is Dangerous For Our Health, It Is Now Official. 

GPs will be urged to make time to see lonely patients, who are 50% more likely to die prematurely than people with good social network. Three out of four GPs say they see between one and five lonely people a day, according to research among over 1,000 family doctors undertaken in 2013 by the Campaign to End Loneliness. (The Guardian Oct 12th 2017)

Social isolation and loneliness are akin to a chronic long-term condition in terms of the impact they have on our patients’ health and wellbeing,” the college’s chair will tell its annual conference. Helen Stokes-Lampard will tell the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).

‘We should be talking to them about their weight, exercise and prescribing more medication. But really what these patients need is someone to listen to them and to find purpose in life.’

“Loneliness and social isolation are not the exclusive preserve of the elderly. They are not something that can be treated with pharmaceuticals or that can be referred for hospital treatment”.

There are 7.6 million single persons of all ages and there are many reasons for isolation. Loneliness is difficult to define, personal and carries stigma. It is not openly admitted. Older people and those who are bereaved want befriending and moral support. There is a real fear of dying alone. Quality of relationships is what counts as well as having a sense of purpose.

One cannot smell taste or touch but only feel loneliness. The key reasons are divorce and bereavement and life transition. Social media does not ameliorate this and can work well and being alone at home can feel like a prison as well as a sanctuary. Lonely mothers lack of conversation particularly those with young children.

Social networking has changed the meaning of friendships into ‘instrumental collaborations’. Communities have become more sparsely connected with less stable networks as all-encompassing local groups become less common (Davies, R, RSA). This results in loneliness, hostility and impacts on sleep, behaviour and a decline in health and well-being.

With a 42% divorce rate – lose friends and social life Rejection fears – and fears of things that reminds you of how you feel Need for soul mate / pal Somebody to do nothing with. House share for companionship is one solution.

1 in 4 will have mental illness in life. Often families move away due various things such as work, cost of housing etc. This means there is limited family support available in times of need.
Ref : BBC 1 the age of loneliness 7th BBC 1

Recommendations include:
Befriending schemes, time banks and local informal groups with social prescribing within a well-co-ordinated local population is what SMART Cranleigh are recommending. With closely networked small initiatives, mutual co-operation and collaboration between local formal and informal groups, such as between the churches and local groups much more could be done ameliorate this.

Having a dog can help as a form of mutual dependency. Matthew Taylor from the RSA suggests that more local initiates should encourage unpaid citizen effort (volunteering) should be seen as integral part of public service that are needed to fight isolation among older people.

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