Embargoed release until: 1st December 2011

Contact: Laura Ferguson on 020 7012 1409 or 07554 882070 (out of hours)

Local commissioners must address the health risks of loneliness by supporting and promoting local support that helps combat loneliness in older age. A report has found that few people know where they would go to find help if they felt lonely – 42% of people surveyed did not know of any organisations or services that could help those facing loneliness. This is despite many local organisations providing support for people in their older age to stay connected, shown by a growing number of organisations becoming supporters of the Campaign to End Loneliness.

In “Listening to You: a baseline report”, launched today, the Campaign to End Loneliness sets out a role for local health commissioners in combating loneliness. They should support and promote groups and organisations providing services that prevent and alleviate loneliness in their area.

Laura Ferguson, Director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, said: “If people don’t know that there is help available to them, they might remain lonely or isolated. This is particularly problematic in winter when those living alone are more at risk of poor health, or feel particularly lonely due to being left out of Christmas celebrations. To tackle loneliness permanently, it is vital that those responsible for the local health and wellbeing agenda address the negative health impacts of loneliness in older age by working with and raising awareness of local groups and services that can help”.

In the foreword to this report, Esther Rantzen CBE, wrote: “We live in an age when the collapse of the extended family and the shattering of communities, together with the brave new idea of “independent living” has created an epidemic of loneliness. But like all epidemics, if we admit the problem and diagnose the causes, together we can find an effective treatment. And this report is a crucial step towards that diagnosis, it takes us an important first step towards discovering the symptoms and the causes of loneliness, and finding, let’s hope, effective cures.”

There are many triggers for loneliness in older age but relatively simple ways to reduce loneliness are often the most transformative, as this case study demonstrates:

“Betty* lives in a rural area in the North East of England and suffers from a degenerative condition that has left her in a wheelchair. A lack of adapted public transport in her rural location meant she became housebound and this led her to feel very lonely despite having regular visits from carers, who she said were “strangers and changed on a daily basis”. However, gaining an adapted vehicle for her wheelchair was a vital step for overcoming her loneliness as she can now get out and about in her community independently. She told us: “I feel liberated – free again and a part of society again. It’s so hard being isolated at home in a rural environment.”

Sally Cupitt, Senior Consultant at the Charity Evaluation Services, said: “It was a striking finding in our research how many older people wanted to do more to prevent loneliness in themselves, or indeed to help others do the same. Many cited reasons such as poverty or disability as barriers. We need to find ways to remove these barriers to enable people to help themselves and other people.”

Andrew Barnett, Director, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation UK, said: “While social media has revolutionised the way we communicate with each other, loneliness remains a serious risk to our well-being especially in later life. This research reaffirms the support we are providing through the campaign to raise awareness of, and help address, this problem and help us all connect better in our complex world.”

Organisations and people who feel very strongly about combating loneliness in older age can show their support for the Campaign to End Loneliness, get actively involved in the work of the Campaign in local areas in the Campaign’s new projects in 2012. Become a supporter and combat loneliness in older age, visit