Our Older People Lead Jeremy Bacon says a new report into the effects of Covid-19 on loneliness highlights the importance of responding to the psychological impact of the pandemic.
Research by the Campaign to End Loneliness found 59% of adults fear they will not be able to see family and friends at Christmas or other religious festivals.
And 54% fear they will not be able to see older relatives for fear of putting them at risk, increasing their risk of loneliness.
More than a quarter (27%) of respondents are worried about celebrating alone, the Survation poll of 2,017 UK adults found.
At least 80% of those surveyed said they are concerned about the loneliness of older people who have a long-term health condition, are bereaved or who live in care homes.
Jeremy said: “This report is a timely contribution to policy debates on how we should respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It highlights the vital importance of recognising and responding to the psychological impact of Covid-19 alongside its physical risk, and for public, private and third sector organisations to collaborate to provide community initiatives that reach those most hidden and isolated, offering autonomy and choice in responding to the psychological impact of loneliness.
“Counsellors and psychotherapists working with older clients report concern that the narrative of the pandemic lumps older people into an homogenous at-risk group whose shielding and risk status results in isolation being equated with safety and well-being.
“Our understanding of loneliness and how we address it, must take account of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic across the four nations and in every community. Restrictions on physical contact, the closure of community venues and services providing support and companionship, and the fears of those most vulnerable to the virus, inevitably increase the risks of social, emotional and existential loneliness.”
The Campaign To End Loneliness research found:
- 85% of those surveyed are concerned about older people with a long-term health condition or disability feeling lonely.
- 83% are worried about a bereaved older person being lonely.
- 79% are concerned about older people in care homes feeling lonely.
- 77% of people are concerned about people aged 65 or older being lonely.
- Well over half (59%) fear they won’t be able to see family and friends at Christmas or other religious festivals.
- 54% fear they won't be able to see older family members for fear of putting them at risk, increasing the risk of loneliness over Christmas and other religious festivals for these people.
- Almost a third (27%) are worried about being alone during the festive period.
- Three-quarters (74%) of those surveyed by Survation agree with the Campaign’s call for increased government funding into services addressing loneliness and isolation, along with increased funding for bereavement support services.
- The actions people felt were most needed to address loneliness in their areas are free broadband and making communities more accessible for older and disabled people.
- Around a third (31%) of those surveyed had formed an extended household.
- 69% of all those surveyed did not form an extended household. They provided a range of reasons that they didn’t do so, for example 20% didn’t know who they would form an extended household with, 13% didn’t have family or close friends (or were not in contact with them) and 5% were worried people would say no if asked.
Now the Campaign to End Loneliness, has published a new report - Promising Approaches Revisited - calling for urgent action by governments across the UK, health bodies, funders and service providers to better address the critical issue of loneliness.
Kate Shurety, executive director at The Campaign To End Loneliness, said: “We hope our new report Promising Approaches Revisited will help the UK and devolved governments, local authorities, health bodies, funders and service providers quickly identify and support the most effective solutions to address of loneliness.
“If the issue is not adequately addressed in every UK community, we are concerned there could be a timebomb being set that will impact more broadly on mental and physical health services. Pre-Covid-19, it is estimated that there was 1.2 million older people already experiencing chronic loneliness. With ongoing restrictions affecting people’s ability to meet up with friends and family, our poll suggests millions more are struggling with feelings of loneliness.
“There is not a one size fits all approach to reducing chronic loneliness, but our report illustrates how, when used together, effective services and interventions from health services, government and charities – including those adapted to Covid times – can help make a real difference to many people’s lives in every community.”
The charity is calling on the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments to urgently build on the loneliness strategies that exist to ensure they target the key groups most vulnerable to chronic loneliness.
It says it’s vital there's continued investment in action to reduce loneliness and that these are linked up across all government departments.
The charity is also calling on the Northern Ireland Government to develop its own strategy so that loneliness receives the attention and resources it needs.
The Campaign is also asking governments to give urgent attention to ensuring community infrastructure and space, housing, transport, digital access and social care all work to maximise the opportunities for social connection across all age groups and all communities.
Kate said: “We are particularly concerned about the effect Covid-19 is having on the extreme sense of isolation felt by many groups, including people in the shielding category, those feeling vulnerable, people who live alone with no social connections, care homes residents, or carers struggling due to minimal support or respite.
“We would ask governments when making any future Covid-19 restrictions to give due consideration, where possible, to allow people to form a safe extended household if they live alone or are carers, and have safe face-to-face visits within care homes.”
To speak to a BACP counsellor or psychotherapist, visit our Therapists' Directory.