The number of lonely people in the UK is increasing. Currently, there are over 9 million lonely adults in the UK, greater than the population of London (The Co-op and British Red Cross). There 1.4 million chronically lonely older people, with half a million going at least five days without seeing or speaking to another person.
Daniel Pattison, from the Campaign to End Loneliness, emphasised that “For many people, Christmas can be a difficult time, especially if you don’t have friends or loved ones around to celebrate with.”
Police control room teams have experienced high numbers of calls from people experiencing loneliness and have no one else to talk to. Avon and Somerset Police received 28,442 calls in the previous year’s two-week Christmas period. Becky Tipper, Head of Command and Control for Avon and Somerset Police, commented “Isolation and loneliness across all generations causes demand for the emergency services. With repeat callers to 999 and 101, this can tie up our call handler teams for considerable amounts of time.”
Age UK has branded loneliness as “a major public health concern” as not only does it impact 13% of older people in the UK, it also puts added pressure on the NHS and local councils. Over 75% of GP’s said that 1-5 lonely people per day visit them. Research has found that loneliness can be more damaging than smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and sufferers have a 64% increased risk of developing dementia.
Additionally, poor health and increased age can worsen loneliness. For example, loss of mobility and dementia limits independence, by preventing sufferers from travelling to meet friends a family or even leave the house. Therefore these issues create a vicious cycle.