Live in Care

Why loneliness is a serious health risk to Britain’s Old Age Pensioners

Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University found links to mental problems and warned that cuts to services are making their problems worse.

Thousands of lonely older people are more at risk of long-term health problems, a study shows.

Research by Anglia Ruskin University looked at the experiences of people contacting The Silver Line, the 24-hour confidential phone service for older people found by Dame Esther Rantzen. It found three quarters of callers were in poor health, compared with about one third of their contemporaries. Anecdotal evidence also suggests many callers have mental health problems and that cuts to other services are exacerbating some of the problems they face, the report added. Prof Stephen Moore, professor of healthcare policy at Anglia Ruskin, said: “The fact that these older people face a set of problems which feed off one another makes the task of tackling their loneliness more difficult. “It is also potentially more worthwhile, because helping someone to feel less lonely may mean they find other difficulties in their life easier to deal with.”

The report found that 80% of those who contacted The Silver Line for advice and friendship to combat loneliness also had a long-standing illness or disability. Only 46% of people surveyed said they often enjoy the things they do, compared with 76% of a sample of the general older population. More than one in three people supported by the phone service recorded the highest score on a loneliness index, whereas only about one in 20 people of their age typically register a score this high.

The researchers measured callers’ loneliness at the beginning and end of a six-month period. They found that after six months, just under a third of people were less lonely, according to their index score. The research found that women are more likely to call the hotline that men, with only 31% of callers being male. This suggests the service should focus more on targeting men, the report said.

The Silver Line was founded by Dame Esther in 2013 after she wrote about her experience of loneliness since being bereaved and living alone. She said she was overwhelmed by the huge response from older people who shared her experience. Earlier this year it marked the milestone of receiving 500,000 calls.

www.themirror.co.uk – Thursday 26th November 2015

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