One in 10 older people experience chronic loneliness
Chronic loneliness can have a negative impact on your health according to experts speaking at a public health seminar on loneliness and older people in Belfast later today. It will highlight how loneliness can affect people of any age with chronic loneliness affecting about 10% of older people.
The all-island event ‘Loneliness & Ageing: a public health issue’ is co-hosted by the Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) and Ulster University’s Bamford Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing.
Keynote Speaker Professor Brian Lawlor, Trinity College Dublin, says “It is essential loneliness is recognised as a key public health issue. It is not just a feeling in isolation, sustained loneliness can have a profound influence on physical and mental wellbeing. Older people who are lonely are more likely to have poor health; are at higher risk of developing Dementia and are more likely to visit their local doctor or A&E.”
Groups at particular risk of loneliness include older people who have a physical or intellectual disability, older people living with dementia or cognitive impairment, individuals who are caring for a family or friend, those from minority communities and older Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people.
Professor Vanessa Burholt, Swansea University explains “Loneliness is best understood as the difference between desired and actual contact. Some people with lots of friends can still feel lonely and those who live alone may not. Increasing social contact is often considered the ‘cure’ for loneliness. While increasing social contact may be valuable for some people with few friends or family it does not help all experiencing loneliness”.
Professor Gerry Leavey, Ulster University added “It is a mistake to think of all older people as lonely. Loneliness can occur from time to time, at a particular stage in life or associated with specific events such as widowhood or retirement - for those who experience it we need to ensure it is recognised as a public health issue”.
Professor Roger O’Sullivan, IPH explained “What this event highlights is the importance of understanding the type, causes and consequences of loneliness among older people and the groups most at risk when considering the appropriate intervention. Loneliness is often out of sight but Christmas is a time when relationships are so important and it comes to the fore of people’s thoughts.”
Notes to Editors
The Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) is an all-island body which supports cooperation on public health North and South to promote collective action for sustained improvements in health with a particular focus on addressing health inequalities.
The Bamford Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing was established in 2011 with the aim of increasing our understanding of mental health through research conducted in Northern Ireland. A core activity is to develop partnerships across the statutory and voluntary mental health sectors in Northern Ireland and beyond, and developing collaborative research programmes with academic and clinical organisations in the Republic of Ireland, UK and internationally.
Speakers at the event include:
· Professor Gerry Leavey, Ulster University,
· Professor Brian Lawlor, Trinity College Dublin,
· Professor Vanessa Burholt, Swansea University,
· Kellie Payne, UK Campaigning to End Loneliness,
· Seán Moynihan, ALONE,
· Siobhan Sweeney, Public Health Agency,
· Eddie Lynch, Commissioner for Older People,
· Professor Roger O Sullivan, Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH)
Arlene McPhillips, IPH Communications Officer,
T: 02890 648494