The British Geriatrics Society welcomes £20 million investment to help tackle loneliness

20 June 2018

The British Geriatrics Society welcomes yesterday’s joint statement by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport announcing that charities and community groups will get £20 million of new funding to help people experiencing social isolation and loneliness.

Healthcare professionals now recognise loneliness as a ‘public health epidemic’ with evidence to suggest it is as bad for health outcomes as smoking 15 cigarettes a day[i]. Older people are one of the groups most at risk. In the UK, over 1 million older adults admit they feel lonely often or all the time[ii], a number set to increase given the changing demography.

At the Society’s conference last week ‘Loneliness in Older People and its Impact on Health’ healthcare professionals, third sector organisations and policy makers discussed scientific research relating to this issue, and shared best practice regarding prevention. The funding announced by Government will help address some of the concerns that were raised at the event, and help put into place much needed initiatives to improve quality of life and health outcomes for lonely older people across the country.

The £20 million investment to help tackle loneliness is very welcome, but is only one way of helping to improve quality of life for older people. Without increased investment, and a long term sustainable plan for the full integration of health and social care services, older people will continue see a negative impact upon their health and wellbeing.

In response to the announcement, Professor Tahir Masud, President-Elect of the British Geriatrics Society and Chair of the ‘Loneliness in Older People and its Impact on Health’ conference, commented:

“The additional investment to support isolated and lonely people is very welcome. Older people are one of the groups most at risk of loneliness and social isolation, and there is clear evidence of the negative impact on their health. Tackling loneliness and isolation is one way of helping to improve quality of life but for older people it is not enough. We still urgently need to address the funding gaps in social care, and to have a long term sustainable plan for full integration of health and social care services.”

[I] LONELINESS AND SOCIAL ISOLATION AS RISK FACTORS FOR MORTALITY: A META-ANALYTIC REVIEW, HOLT-LUNSTAD, 2015
[II] EVIDENCE REVIEW: LONELINESS IN LATER LIFE, AGE UK REPORT, 2015