The Campaign to End Loneliness is calling for more support for older people all year round following new research that indicates they are more likely to feel lonely in the summer.
The new study suggests that older people could be more at risk of feeling lonely in the summer months, contrary to popular views that loneliness is more widespread at Christmas. The organisation says that older people may be at less risk of feeling lonely at Christmas due to the “tremendous” increase in support during the holiday season.
The study from Brunel University London looked at experiences of loneliness in people aged 65 and over during different seasons of the year and concluded they were most likely to feel lonely in the summer months and least likely to feel lonely in December or March.
Professor Christina Victor, who led the research at Brunel University, said: ‘’By highlighting the high levels of loneliness among older people in the summer months we have ‘busted the myth’ that loneliness is just a problem at Christmas. Our study shows how important it is to conduct research into the experience of loneliness in later life so that we develop evidence-based interventions against loneliness and not base services on myths and stereotypes.
Jeremy Hunt has previously warned that loneliness and isolation is as “bad for you” as “smoking 15 cigarettes a day” and the Campaign to End Loneliness says that loneliness needs to be tackled throughout the year as a serious public health issue.
Over 800,000 people in England experience chronic loneliness, where they feel lonely all or most of the time.
Laura Ferguson, Director for the Campaign to End Loneliness, says: “It may come as a surprise to many that older people may be less likely to feel lonely at Christmas than at other times of the year.
“The tremendous efforts from charities, volunteers, friends and family to support older people make a huge difference in tackling loneliness during the holiday. However, with ten per cent of people in the UK feeling lonely all or most of the time, we are urging all those who support older people at Christmas to continue to maintain contact and support all year round.
“Research shows that loneliness damages the health of older people, with an increased risk of high blood pressure, dementia, and depression. If the Government and health professionals do not act to prevent older people from being lonely, we are going to see the consequences in our hospitals and social care services all year round.”