In a speech to be given to delegates at the National Children and Adults Services (NCAS) conference, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has flagged loneliness as a critical issue affecting older people.

In the speech Jeremy Hunt will say:

“According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, there are 800,000 people in England who are chronically lonely.  Some five million people say television is their main form of company – that’s 10% of the population. We know there is a broader problem of loneliness that in our busy lives we have utterly failed to confront as a society. Each and every lonely person has someone who could visit them and offer companionship. A forgotten million who live amongst us – ignored to our national shame.”

Commenting on the speech Kate Jopling, Director for the Campaign to End Loneliness, says:

“Jeremy Hunt is right to highlight loneliness as an important issue for our ageing population. However, loneliness is not just a moral outrage, but also a serious public health issue which deserves a comprehensive response. Research shows that lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”

“We now need to put in place the services which can prevent and alleviate loneliness and thereby reduce the suffering of thousands of older people and help bring under control the spiralling costs of treating preventable ill health.”