Loneliness and social isolation are issues that have received increasing media attention in the last few years. Loneliness is damaging to society, it decreases wellbeing and as the Campaign for Loneliness states ‘it is harmful to our health.’
Despite existing and new initiatives designed to prevent loneliness, recent research shows the problem is worsening and is costly. The London School of Economics and Political Science estimates the UK’s ‘epidemic of loneliness’ costs £6,000 per person for a decade of an older person’s life in health costs and pressure on local services. They also say that for every £1 spent on preventing loneliness, there’s the potential to save £3.
To gain a better understanding of loneliness, social isolation and likely preventions, The Advocacy Project’s ‘User Focused Monitoring’ (UFM) team sought the views and opinions of 56 people who have experience of secondary mental health services. They asked them about their experience of loneliness, what had worked to help prevent or reduce loneliness and any suggestions for how this could be improved. The participants ranged in age from 18 to 75+
The UFM findings show that practical steps for preventing or decreasing loneliness can involve different ways of doing things in addition to the continued need for community infrastructure and people already in place.
The four key themes that emerged from the evaluation relate to:
Settings – the importance of safe spaces, engagement with communities and the appreciation that a sense of loneliness is still possible even when there are other people around.
Activities – having a diverse choice of groups, removing barriers to participating and having professionals who actively facilitate access and engagement
Therapy/treatment – The impact medication can have on feelings of social isolation and loneliness, various beneficial therapies and treatments and helping people to develop and grow skills and strategies for creating and maintaining relationships
People – access to a trusted professional who knows the person well, professionals making time for individuals, and access to networks other than mental health professionals and peers
The UFM put forward recommendations that align with the work done by the Campaign to End Loneliness and fit with evidenced practical approaches that place emphasis on starting with individuals, involving each person in shaping activities and group interventions.
You can find more details in the full report