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When ‘Me Time’ Becomes Loneliness

 

Wednesday 5th December 2012

In today’s pressurised society time to one’s self is widely considered a treat. But two recent studies confirm that when hours spent alone stretch into days and weeks, loneliness becomes a significant health hazard for older people.

The effect of loneliness on mental health is well established; and research into the physical effects of too much empty time without company goes back over 30 years. However recent studies by the University of California and University College London really bring the message home.

According to a report in The Times, the former found “that the risks of heart disease and blood clots increased as those who are lonely adopt a more sedentary lifestyle, exercise less and drink more”. It advised that the hidden killer, loneliness, increases the risks of death in elderly people by 10 per cent.

The second study, into arthritis and the other debilitating conditions, revealed an increased risk of diseases, together with a 2.26 times higher likelihood of having falls among those living alone.

Fortunately the UK is taking the situation seriously – as it should. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced that: “For the first time local authorities will identify areas where older people suffer most acutely from loneliness to allow them to tackle the growing problem of social isolation and its harmful effect.” 

Others – from Esther Rantzen CBE to that venerable charity the WRVS – are contributing to the solution.  The UCKG HelpCentre’s 24 hour National Helpline on 0870 068 2000 provides a friendly voice and practical suggestions for lonely people of all ages.

However, personal contact is the really big issue.  It is estimated that around quarter of a million older people will be alone over Christmas this year, and many see very little of family, friends and neighbours throughout the year.

The UCKG HelpCentre’s Seniors’ Group can help some of them as it works to meet the differing needs of people from 55+ to their 90s with a range of activities that are helpful, informative, fun or any combination of those.

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