As reported by News and Star, elderly people across the UK who live alone are spending more time with their GPs and at A&E due to loneliness
People over 65 who live alone are more likely to visit heir GP or A&E than those living with a family member or companion.
A Heath Foundation study of 1,447 older people found that this age group is 50% more likely to visit A&E of they live alone, and also visit their GP once at least once a month.
These statistics have led to increased concern regarding elderly loneliness. Loneliness is linked to depression and heart disease among older people, and the researchers believe that treating this issue at the source could relieve the pressure on health services.
“[The] findings underline the fact that older people living alone have poorer health than those living with others, as well as more intensive health care needs,” said Kathryn Dreyer, principal data analyst at the Health Foundation.
“With the number of older people living alone set to continue to grow, more needs to be done to help people stay healthy and to offer more support and care in the community.
“An estimated nine million people across the UK, almost a fifth of the population, report feeling lonely, greatly increasing their risk of poor health.
“We welcome the support for social prescribing set out by the government already and hope to see further measures to address social isolation and loneliness in the forthcoming NHS long-term plan.”
“Depression is a major issue affecting millions of people,” said the paper’s lead author, Dr Daisy Fancourt.
“If we are starting to feel low or isolated then cultural engagement is something simple that we can do to proactively help with our own mental health, before it gets to the point where we need professional medical help.”
The prime minister announced in October that an additional £1.8m would be pumped into community projects in an attempt to reduce loneliness.
Sophie Andrews, chief executive of The Silver Line, said: “These findings chime with what we know at The Silver Line. As the only national 24/7 helpline for lonely older people, we know that many of our callers have mental health problems caused by their isolation. They feel they have nowhere to turn; we often feel like out-of-hours social care.
“It is vital the Department of Health and Social Care recognises loneliness as the public health crisis it is, and puts proper money in to services which help alleviate it.”