A new campaign, launched by Suffolk’s health professionals, invites people to play their part to beat loneliness; drawing attention to the fact that loneliness can affect any of us at any time.
An estimated 800,000 people in England feel lonely, and AgeUK Suffolk predicts that 15,000 older people in Suffolk can go a month without speaking to a friend, family member or neighbour.
The campaign, entitled Loneliness. Make the connection begins this month and kicks off a year-long focus on loneliness and how it affects people in different ways, from new parents to bereavement and unemployment. It follows in the footsteps of Age UK Suffolk’s Shine a Light on Loneliness campaign, which began at the start of the month to address the issue of loneliness and older people.
A number of studies have linked the harmful effects of loneliness to both mental and physical health; claiming the same long-term harmful effects as obesity and smoking.
Councillor Alan Murray, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for health and adult care, said: “Loneliness is something that people can struggle to admit to and find even harder to discuss. It has no obvious signs or symptoms but can have a devastating impact on people’s mental and physical health, with long-term implications for people who are not given the support they need.
“With this new campaign, we want to draw attention to the way in which loneliness affects people at different stages in their life, while emphasising the positive impact that people can make by offering their time to support friends, family members and others to overcome loneliness and isolation.”
The campaign will use a series of compelling images and targeted messages to raise awareness of particular forms of loneliness. At the same time, it will encourage people to make pledges about how they can do their bit to help someone else avoid loneliness.
Sharron Cozens, Acting Chief Executive of AgeUK Suffolk, said:“Loneliness is a very big issue for us and the people we support, and that’s why we’re highlighting it as a priority for 2015. It can be accompanied by depression or behaviours that are harmful in themselves, including drinking alone which, according to a Mintel survey, affects one in five (18%) over 65s who drink at home on a daily basis.
“We aim to provide low-level interventions to help combat depression in later life, such as befriending, day clubs and social opportunities, as they can have great benefits for overall health and wellbeing.
“There is also plenty we can all do to help. This includes setting aside time every week to have a conversation with a friend or family member who you may not speak to very often, or a neighbour that you know lives alone some or all of the time. You could also consider formal volunteering opportunities, which are available at Age UK Suffolk and other organisations.”
Make the connection is available from www.healthysuffolk.org.uk including the ability to make a pledge, find out what support is available, read case study examples and download a range of useful resources.