‘Lonely this Christmas’ is a popular song we hear every year, but there is growing research evidence that social isolation and loneliness are having a big impact on the wellbeing of many people in this country and across the globe.
Are you Lonely?
As we at worksafeandwell believe that wellbeing is not just about what happens at work, we are asking our followers to think about what our colleagues are doing in those hours when they are not at work.
- Are they lonely?
- Do they have family connections or a good network of friends to connect with?
- Do you talk to them about life outside of work?
If you do, you may find that the colleague who spends many hours of overtime at work voluntarily, may just be doing that as it is their only connection with other people, and may be more preferable than sitting at home with the television for company.
Or it may be that the pressures of work and other demands on their time has caused them to become isolated from their friends, family and other social connections.
Health Impacts of Loneliness
Loneliness is a bigger problem than simply an emotional experience. Research shows that loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our physical and mental health.
A lack of positive social connections can increase the risk of early death as much smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and can be just as harmful to our health than the well-known risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity. Some studies estimated that Loneliness can increase the likelihood of mortality by 26%.
Here are a few statistics from the Campaign to End Loneliness that may surprise you:
- 17% of older people are in contact with family, friends and neighbours less than once a week and 11% are in contact less than once a month (Victor et al, 2003)
- Over half (51%) of all people aged 75 and over live alone (ONS, 2010)
- Two fifths all older people (about 3.9 million) say the television is their main company (Age UK, 2014)
- 63% of adults aged 52 or over who have been widowed, and 51% of the same group who are separated or divorced report, feeling lonely some of the time or often (Beaumont, 2013)
- 59% of adults aged over 52 who report poor health say they feel lonely some of the time or often, compared to 21% who say they are in excellent health (Beaumont, 2013)
- A higher percentage of women than men report feeling lonely some of the time or often (Beaumont, 2013).
Let’s Stop Being Lonely, Together
The Campaign to end Loneliness has decribed Loneliness as an ‘epidemic’. The launch of the Jo Cox Commission report on Loneliness report this month marks a significant moment in trying to end this increasing social crisis. Jo Cox described the problem so well and said:
Young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate… it is something many of us could easily help with.’ Looking in on a neighbour, visiting an elderly relative or making that call or visit we’ve been promising to a friend we haven’t seen in a long time. Let people know you are #happytochat
So, how well do you know your colleagues? Let’s tackle this loneliness epidemic by talking to each other more, and finding creative ways to increase our social connections with our communities.