67 areas in England ignoring the health risks of loneliness and isolation

Those responsible for health and wellbeing in England are not measuring or prioritising the issues of loneliness and isolation in older age

Isolation and loneliness is as bad for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and worse than obesity. Despite isolation and loneliness being acknowledged as a risk to health and public health and affecting nearly 3 million older people, there are still 67 local areas that are not prioritising this as an issue.

The total number of health and wellbeing boards across England who are tackling the issue have been gathered and analysed in a review by the Campaign to End Loneliness and research by Charities Evaluation Services:

  • 61 of the 128 published Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategies had at least acknowledged loneliness and/or isolation as serious issues
  • 8 of these 61 strategies commit to measurable actions and/or targets to address loneliness in older age or for all ages
  • However, over half of all health and wellbeing boards with published strategies (53%) have not recognised that loneliness and/or isolation are issues that need addressingLaura Ferguson, director of the Campaign to End Loneliness said:

“We are dismayed that 67 areas have chosen not to prioritise loneliness or isolation. I question whether these decisions were made based on evidence to show that loneliness is not an issue in those areas. All health and wellbeing boards must at least measure loneliness and isolation so that they understand the urgency of the issue for people living in their area and can plan to tackle loneliness based on local needs.”

Councillor Mohammed Khan from Blackburn and Darwen Council, one of eight areas that have identified how they will tackle loneliness and isolation, said:

“Social connections are vitally important for people’s health and wellbeing. Loneliness is harmful to health and older people are a high risk group”.
This review is being launched on 19 June 2013 at Connect + Act: a conference to tackle loneliness in older age urging all areas to tackle loneliness and isolation.