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Checking in on vulnerable relatives will save lives

15 December 2017 10:46

One million people in the UK are chronically lonely

One million people in the UK are chronically lonely

With temperatures dropping to -13°C in some parts of Britain, the chief nursing officer for England is prompting people to check in on elderly and vulnerable relatives who are more susceptible to illness.

Professor Jane Cummings says simple acts of companionship can be "life-saving" for those who are feeling isolated - and says family, friends and neighbours can all play a part in reducing the impact.

"For vulnerable groups, social isolation combined with the health dangers of colder weather, is a lethal combination," she adds.

Effects of the cold

Around one million people in the UK are chronically lonely, the Campaign to End Loneliness reports.

The NHS says living in isolation increases the risk of premature death by around a third, with a rising number of heart attacks amid the plummeting temperatures.

A survey by the NHS Stay Well this Winter campaign also found that two in five 70 to 80-year-olds say getting help with day-to-day tasks - such as shopping, doctor appointments and trips to the pharmacy - would make a big difference.

Professor Cummings continued: "NHS staff see first-hand the consequences of loneliness, from dealing with life-threatening and serious illness to offering a lifeline to those simply wanting a see a friendly face."

'Loneliness epidemic'

Seema Kennedy MP and Rachel Reeves MP, who head the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission has called the evidence of the relationship between health and loneliness, "overwhelming".

"Loneliness is no longer just a personal misfortune but has grown into a social epidemic," they argue. "If we can tackle it effectively we can make Britain not just a happier but also a healthier country in which to live."

Life changes such as new careers and relationships can take family members overseas. But at Christmas, relatives can have peace of mind for those precious visits with travel insurance over 65.