A study has revealed that for every £1 spent on tackling the UK's loneliness epidemic £3 of savings can be made.
The finding, made by the London School of Economics, came after it was estimated 1.2m people in the country suffer 'chronic' isolation.
In an experiment, the university paired participants with volunteers to reconnect them with interests and activities in the local community.
The report makes the case that spending money on loneliness has great economic benefits and the positive return on investment is dependent on the quality of the relationship between the volunteer and the participant.
More work, less time.
As more and more individuals work from home, work longer hours, commute longer distances, shop and socialise online and struggle to find face-to-face time for family and friends, there may be a correlation between our busier lives and loneliness.
That feeling is highlighted in a survey by the Mental Health Foundation, which found almost half (48%) of us believe people are getting lonelier in general (The Lonely Society Report).
A significant proportion of this lonely society is older people who are more likely to be affected by social isolation due to bereavement, ill health and rising costs of day-to-day living.
In the report, 78-year-old Beryl said: 'Lately I’ve been feeling isolated because of health problems. I couldn’t walk for more than two years. It was very hard for me as I’d been used to meeting everyone out and about every day'.
What can health and social care practitioners do?
NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) mentions guidelines on what can be done to improve health and social care and assisting older people to maintain their well being, including:
- being aware of the importance of maintaining and improving independence and mental well being
- ensuring you can identify those most at risk of a decline in their independence and mental well being
If your role allows, ensure that you suggest activities that could benefit the service user. For example, providing a range of group activities to encourage socialising and providing ongoing technical support to assist older people to use information and communication technologies.
Involve older people in the planning of services as much research has proven the effectiveness of this in reducing isolation.
Previous reports have also shown us that older people receiving services are looking for less rigidity and greater adaptability of the interventions e.g. ensuring that mentoring is tailored to their individual needs and interests (Emma Collins, IRISS).