How do you know your council is actively tackling loneliness?
The Local Government Association (LGA), the Campaign to End Loneliness and Age UK have produced ‘Combating loneliness’ – a comprehensive guide for councils on tackling loneliness. This ‘must know’ summarises and updates information in the guide. References are from the guide unless otherwise indicated: www.local.gov.uk/combating-loneliness.
There is a growing body of research showing that loneliness is a serious condition which can have a harmful effect on individuals’ physical and mental health, as well as bringing costs to public finance, particularly health and social care, and to the economy.
Loneliness is associated with higher rates of depression, high blood pressure and dementia. It is said to lead to higher rates of premature mortality comparable to those associated with smoking and alcohol consumption – around 30 per cent higher than for the general population.
Lonely individuals are more likely to visit their GP and hospital emergency departments; three-quarter of GPs say that up to five of their patients each day attend mainly because they are lonely. People who are lonely also have a higher incidence of falls, and are at increased risk of needing long-term care, including residential and nursing home care. This results in significant and potentially avoidable costs to public services.
Interventions to tackle loneliness can be both successful in terms of outcomes for individuals and cost effectiveness. For example, Gloucestershire Village and Community Agents scheme, which identified and supported lonely, isolated older people, gained in a return on investment of £3.10 for every £1 spent. Living Well Cornwall, which included interventions to tackle loneliness, has shown a 41 per cent reduction in the cost of hospital admissions, and an eight per cent reduction in social care costs. Link Age Bristol supported lonely older people to lead fuller, more active lives with a return of at least £1: £1.20.
While some direct investment will be needed for a comprehensive approach, much can be achieved by shaping existing resources and interventions to include loneliness in their remit.