3 in 4 of over-50s say they are lonely
BRITAIN’S older generations are suffering an ‘epidemic of loneliness’, with almost three-quarters describing themselves as lonely, a disturbing study revealed yesterday.
Almost two in five said entire days went by without them speaking to anyone, and nearly half said they had felt lonely for years.
Campaigners warned that many people – particularly pensioners – were suffering in silence, as the majority had not told their family how they felt. Of those who reported being lonely, 71 per cent thought their friends or family would be ‘surprised or astonished’ to hear it.
Bereavement, poor health and living alone were all identified as causes of loneliness, although many respondents said they had felt lonely after retirement or after their children left home.
And charities warned that closures of banks, Post Offices, small shops and libraries could also have a devastating impact on older people who relied on them for social contact.
The results of the survey by social media site Gransnet, whose users have an average age of 62, were revealed as part of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. The charity-backed commission, set up by the Labour MP before her murder last year, was launched by a cross-party group of MPs earlier this year, and calls on individuals and businesses to do more to tackle isolation amongst the elderly.
Previous research has found loneliness can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, with lonely people significantly more likely to visit their GP.
The survey questioned 1,014 over-50s about loneliness in later life. It found that 73 per cent described themselves as feeling lonely some or all of the time. Of those 56 per cent said they had never admitted feeling lonely.
Forty-nine per cent said they had felt lonely for years and 59 per cent said they felt lonelier now than when they were younger. Age UK has previously found that 1.2million older people in Britain are chronically lonely, with half a million over-60s usually spending every day alone.
Tory MP Seema Kennedy, co-chairman of the commission, said: ‘Loneliness is a silent epidemic across the UK ... How we care and act for those around us could mean the difference between an older person just coping and them loving and enjoying later life.’
Seven in ten say their family have no idea