Changing The Agenda

Research from the Campaign to End Loneliness has shown that loneliness has the same impact on health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Dr Kellie Payne, from the campaign, tells us more about the campaign’s efforts to have loneliness recognised as a real health problem at a local authority level.

The Campaign to End Loneliness, which was set up in 2011, estimates that 1 million individuals over the age of 65 in the UK consider themselves to be lonely. One of the campaign’s main findings is that loneliness has as large of a health impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Other research has shown that loneliness increases the risk of conditions such as depression, dementia and high blood pressure. Academic research has also revealed that those suffering from loneliness place an increased demand on health services as they are more likely to use A&E services, visit their GP and use medication more regularly.

A Look Back The campaign was set up to raise awareness about the serious impact loneliness can have on health and to

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establish the issue as a public health concern. Since the organisation’s inception the campaign team have worked tirelessly with a number of local authorities and have seen 60% of health and wellbeing boards across the UK include loneliness or isolation in their health and wellbeing strategies.

The Campaign is led by five partner organisations including Age UK Oxfordshire, Independent Age, Manchester City Council, Royal Voluntary Service and Sense, and works alongside more than 2,000 supporters to tackle loneliness in older age.

Education at a Ground Level Tomorrow’s Care spoke to Dr Kellie Payne, Learning and Research Manager and Coordinator of the Learning Network at the Campaign to End Loneliness, to find out more. As well as commissioning and undertaking

lengthy research projects, Dr Kellie also translates the research team’s findings to the 3000 campaign members via a quarterly newsletter, in a bid to educate those working at a local level with people who are lonely, and encourage best practice.

Speaking about the research team’s findings Dr Kellie commented: “We have found that individuals who have more contact with people on a daily basis tend to self-regulate better, however if they are alone more they are more likely not to pay as much attention to these healthy behaviours. Being surrounded by people provides a sense of social obligation that it is important to look after yourself.

“We hope to raise the issue of loneliness as a public health issue and get it on the agenda as something as serious as smoking and diabetes.”

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