Loneliness in Older People
For my report I am focusing on loneliness and the impacts that it has on older people specifically. According to Victor, C (2011) there has been research completed over the last decades and it has shown that 6-13 percent of the older population feel lonely frequently or continuously. This has given me the idea that it is a global issue today and the issue of loneliness is increasing for the ageing population. I believe that it has become a concern and should be explored.
Loneliness has been defined by many researchers in many ways however I have confidence in that (Cacioppo and Patrick, 2008) definition of loneliness is the best John says, “loneliness is a gap between your connection needs and the amount of connection that you get”. People perceive loneliness in many ways for e.g. some believe that you can be lonely in a crowd of people and you do not always have to be on your own to be necessarily lonely.
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Figures and statistics
I have done some research on the impacts that loneliness has on older people in the UK and according to (Beaumont, 2013) 59% of adults over the age of 52 that reported to poor health say that they feel lonely some of the time or frequently, compared to 21% who say they are in excellent health. Loneliness has become a great issue and observing these statistics a great amount of the older population is experiencing loneliness.
Loneliness is a larger problem than just purely an emotive experience. As mentioned by (Davidson, and Rossall, 2014) loneliness has a major impact on one’s quality of life and a variety of one’s individual situations such as poor health, living on their own and absence of support network are all factors contributing to feelings of loneliness.
(Landeiro et al 2017) goes on to say that loneliness affects roughly one-third to one-half of the ageing people and it has a negative impact on their physical and mental health. My next section will follow on and I will identify some of the impacts of loneliness in older adults.
Impacts of loneliness
As people get older, they tend to lose touch with the social network due to retirement, death of family or moving away from their home town or communication becomes difficult because of time or travel. Loosing this connection will increase the feelings of loneliness (Havens et al 2004).
Some studies have suggested that the impact of loneliness on health and death are of the same direction of greatness as such risk factors as high blood pressure, obesity, and smoking. Loneliness might lead to dangerous health-related consequences. It is one of the 3 key factors that leads to depression (Green et al., 1992), and a significant cause of suicide and attempts of suicide. A study that was carried out by Hansson et al. (1987) exposed that loneliness was connected to poor psychological modification, dissatisfaction with family and social relationships.
Bolton, M. (2012) goes on to say that having weak social networks carries a health danger: those that have solid social networks have a 50 per cent increased likelihood of living after an average follow-up time of 7 years. Griffin, J., 2010. has found that loneliness frequently relates to moods of ‘anger, sadness, depression, worthlessness, resentment, emptiness, vulnerability and pessimism’.
“Although many of us experience loneliness at one time or another, it is often overlooked or dismissed. Because our society prides itself on self-reliance, loneliness might carry a stigma for people who admit to it. This is both paradoxical and pernicious: if loneliness is transient, we simply accept it as part of life, but we have a deep dread of being lonely for the long haul.”
Mental Health Foundation 2017.
The ageing population also face self-stigma, they feel embarrassed that they have no friends if they go to a certain event which often leads them to avoid any social event in the case that someone may notice that they are alone.
Many of the older population have no access to internet especially those that live in rural areas. They lack the access of travel as they do not know where to get on the bus, and they may not be able to drive so therefore they will not get to socialise. If the individuals are living in a rural area, they will all usually tend to have similar issues: Absence of transportation and access to health care services, lack of social communication, slow internet connection, not enough resources (grocery stores, hospitals) that are close to their homes.
(Holley-Moore, G. and Creighton, H., 2015) shows that the older people that are living in rural areas do not have suf?cient access to public transport. Only 20% of those that are aged 70-74 living in rural areas use public transport weekly, compared to 38% of those who live in a city location. Over all this section has shown that the elderly population that are living in rural areas are suffering from the lack of access this leads to many diseases and health problems.
There are many interventions set in place in order to overcome ‘loneliness’. One of the campaigns is ‘The Campaign to end Loneliness’, this campaign believes that people of all ages need better social connection however they focus more so on the elderly as the older age group find it harder to overcome loneliness. They want to make sure that everyone that is lacking company is reached and supported.
(Cattan et al 2005) mentions that there are a range of interventions that may be deployed to target loneliness. These consist of support groups or counselling, telephone or web-based support, social skills training or simply provide opportunities for social interaction. Having these interventions set in place may help the ageing population gain a sense of belonging and social connection.
It has been demonstrated that Loneliness is a serious problem. Feelings of loneliness can affect people at any stage in their life but are particularly severe for older people (Roberts, M., 2014). There are affects and impacts that loneliness has on the older population for e.g. health problems and diseases. They are lacking access to many things including transport especially those that are living in rural areas.
The population that are suffering from loneliness are facing stigma, Marcus Rand goes on to say that the taboo and stigma around loneliness is preventing vulnerable people from opening up about their state. This makes it very difficult for support groups to find the missing older people who need our help. Loneliness has become a major concern worldwide and I am exploring on how people have become lonely and what we can do about it.
- Beaumont, J., 2013. Measuring national well-being–Older people and loneliness. London: ONS.
- Bolton, M. (2012) Loneliness: the state we’re in: a report of evidence compiled for the Campaign to End Loneliness. Abingdon: Age UK Oxfordshire.
- Cacioppo, J.T., Patrick (2008) Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection.
- Campaign to End Loneliness. http://campaigntoendloneliness.org/toolkit/
- Cattan M, White M, Bond J, Learmouth A. Preventing social isolation and loneliness among older people: a systematic review of health promotion interventions. Ageing and Society. 2005;25:41-67.doi: 10.1017/ S0144686X04002594
- Davidson, S. and Rossall, P., 2014. Evidence review: Loneliness in later life. Age UK.
- Green, B.H., Copeland, J.R.M., Dewey, M.E., Sharma, V., Saunders, P.A., Davidson, I.A., Sullivan, C. and McWilliam, C., 1992. Risk factors for depression in elderly people: a prospective study. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 86(3), pp.213-217.
- Griffin, J., 2010. The lonely society?. Mental Health Foundation.
- Hansson R. O, Jones W. H, Carpenter B. N, Remondet J. H. International Journal of Human Development. 1986-1987;27(1):41–53.
- Havens, B., Hall, M., Sylvestre, G. and Jivan, T., 2004. Social isolation and loneliness: Differences between older rural and urban Manitobans. Canadian Journal on Aging/la revue canadienne du vieillissement, 23(2), pp.129-140.
- Holley-Moore, G. and Creighton, H., 2015. The future of transport in an ageing society. Age UK, London.
- Landeiro, F., Barrows, P., Musson, E.N., Gray, A.M. and Leal, J., 2017. Reducing social isolation and loneliness in older people: a systematic review protocol. BMJ open, 7(5), p.e013778.
- Marcus Rand. 2018. Journal of general practice nursing. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.journalofpracticenursing.co.uk/news/fear-of-stigma-linked-to-widespread-loneliness-in-britain. [Accessed 14 November 2018].
- Roberts, M., 2014. A Summary of Recent Research Evidence About loneliness and social isolation, their health effects and the potential role of befriending.
- Victor, C (2011) ‘Loneliness in Old Age: the UK Perspective’ in Age UK Oxfordshire (2011) Safeguarding the Convoy: a call to action from the Campaign to End Loneliness (Age UK Oxfordshire: Oxford)lone