Tackle loneliness to reduce NHS strain - charity

17 December 2018 08:26

Tackling loneliness could help fight depression and heart disease

Tackling loneliness could help fight depression and heart disease

Older people are 50% more likely to take themselves to A&E if they live alone, a new study has revealed.

The Health Foundation says 20% of people over 65 who live alone visit their local GP at least once a month, compared to one in seven of those who live with someone else.

The figures come amid increasing concern about loneliness and isolation among the UK's elderly population, particularly with the festive period coming up.

Experts believe there is potential to reduce the pressure on strained NHS services by doing more to tackle loneliness, which can increase the chances of suffering from depression and heart disease.

Poorer health

The study of 1,447 older people showed mental health conditions were more prevalent in those living alone at more than one in four, compared with one in five for those co-habiting.

"Today's findings underline the fact that older people living alone have poorer health than those living with others, as well as more intensive health care needs," said Kathryn Dreyer, principal data analyst at the Health Foundation.

"With the number of older people living alone set to continue to grow, more needs to be done to help people stay healthy and to offer more support and care in the community.

"An estimated nine million people across the UK, almost a fifth of the population, report feeling lonely, greatly increasing their risk of poor health.

"We welcome the support for social prescribing set out by the Government already and hope to see further measures to address social isolation and loneliness in the forthcoming NHS long-term plan."

Dramatically reduce

The findings come as similar research published by University College London showed regular visits to the cinema, theatre or museums could dramatically reduce the chances of older people becoming depressed.

Those who participated in such activities every few months had a 32% lower risk of developing depression, while people who attend once a month or more reduce their risk by almost half (48%).

"Depression is a major issue affecting millions of people," said the paper's lead author, Dr Daisy Fancourt.

"If we are starting to feel low or isolated then cultural engagement is something simple that we can do to proactively help with our own mental health, before it gets to the point where we need professional medical help."

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