Understanding the Impact of Loneliness on People’s Physical and Mental Health

A seminar arranged by the  Institute of Ageing and Health together with the National Council of Women and the Royal College of Nursing was held in Birmingham on 28 July 2017.

It was jointly chaired by Ruth Neuberg, Chair of the NCW Health Committee. The key speaker was: Dawne Garrett, Professional Lead for Care of Older People, Royal College of Nursing.  The other speakers were from NCW as well as organisations investigating and working in this field including Age UK, Campaign to end Loneliness, Contact the Elderly, the Institute of Ageing and Health.  Many organisations and individuals are studying this subject and it is to be hoped that their work will be implemented. NCW will be watching!  The day was packed with reliable facts and statistics – Age UK “loneliness can be as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and is more damaging than obesity”. From the Royal College of Nursing “Loneliness is linked with deficits in self-care and motivation and shortfalls in nutrition and exercise”.

In the afternoon, we learned of ways to reduce loneliness. Some ideas are simple and effective, such as Contact the Elderly, an organisation which takes lonely isolated elderly people out to a volunteer hostess for tea on a Sunday afternoon.  A Leicester NCW member gave examples of her initiatives in combating loneliness and Ruth Neuberg read responses from young NCW members to her questionnaire on their experience of loneliness – we learned it is not just the elderly who are affected, as you might think!