Results from a new survey of over 1,000 older people released today suggest that people aged over-65s spend on average over 6 waking hours alone every day. Added up, this is equates to a significant 99 days a year.

The survey also found that 24% reported feeling lonely “some or most of the time” and 1 in 5 of respondents aged over 75 could go a whole weekend without seeing or speaking to another person.

Chronic loneliness – when someone feels lonely all or most of the time – has a significant and detrimental impact on our health. Last year, researchers in the Netherlands found that lonely individuals were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease than non-lonely individuals. Regular readers of our blog will also know by now that loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health: research shows that lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is worse for us than obesity.

Loneliness also harms our mental health by increasing our risk of depression. As our population grows older, the academic research and survey results, such as those released by ARCO today, should not be overlooked.

In response to these new statistics, Laura Ferguson, Director of the Campaign to End Loneliness said:

“It is shocking that our older generation may be spending nearly 100 days a year alone. Whilst being alone does not automatically mean a person is experiencing loneliness, it is a significant risk factor that can lead to further isolation and loneliness.

We can all do something about this issue. On the 1st of April 2013, new forums for senior health and care officials – called health and wellbeing boards – will become responsible for the long term future of health and care services. It is vital that these boards understand the extent of the problem of loneliness and its impact on our health, as they will be making decisions about future services for older people.”

What can I do to reduce loneliness in my local area?

  • Ask your local councillor to raise awareness of the health risks of loneliness by sending them this quick and simple email.
  • Write to your health and wellbeing board and ask them to help address loneliness in older age, using this template letter
  • Become a supporter of the Campaign to End Loneliness
  • Find some local volunteering opportunities

For more information about the Associated Retirement Community Organisation’s survey, read the Daily Mail article here.