Old or young, loneliness and social isolation can affect people at any age. And because the UK as a society is getting lonelier, it is likely you are coming across more and more residents facing this.
How do loneliness and social isolation affect wellbeing?
Long periods of loneliness and social isolation can have a negative impact on a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. It is so serious that it can increase the likelihood of obesity, dementia, heart disease and depression. Loneliness also increases the likelihood of mortality by 26% and is as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Common signs include:
physical symptoms - increased aches and pains, headaches or worsening of illnesses or medical conditions
- mental health conditions – such as depression, anxiety and paranoia
- low energy, difficulty sleeping or a lack of motivation
- a loss of appetite and weight loss or gain
- increased alcohol consumption, smoking or use of medication or drugs
- feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness.
Spotting the signs
Reasons why someone might be feeling lonely or isolated
People can feel lonely or isolated for a variety of reasons, though it can commonly affect those getting older. While this might not cover everything, one or more below might identify someone you think might be lonely or isolated.
- Someone who has lost someone - a partner, family member or friend (through death or moving away).
- Someone living alone and not seeing or speaking to people often.
- Someone with no close family.
- Those having difficulties meeting new people due to shyness, or feeling like they don’t fit in (such as at school or work).
- Those with mental health conditions (such as depression or anxiety) and fearing social stigma or rejection.
- Those unable to participate in activities or get out much (due to illness, mobility or transport issues).
- Those in retirement or having a change in circumstance (such as a new school or job, moving areas or having a baby).
- Those with language barriers or reduced connections with their culture of origin.
Ways to #ReachOut to help overcome loneliness and social isolation
There are many ways to overcome loneliness and social isolation or help someone facing it. We are encouraging everyone to #ReachOut to someone, whether you’re feeling down yourself, or if you know someone affected.
Here are our top tips.
- Connecting with friends and family: Staying in contact with people can help prevent loneliness and social isolation, even if it’s just for a short catch up. Technology can help when distance is an issue as there are so many ways to stay in touch – phone or Skype, email and social media sites, such as Facebook, are all great ways to stay connected.
If you’re not online at home, you could book time for internet access at your local library.
- Getting out and socialising: If you can, attending something or making plans, no matter how big or small, such as a party, activity, gym or club, meeting friends, doing the shopping or cooking for someone may help. You’ll be surprised how the change of scenery and company may help! If you have transport or mobility issues, find out more about Slough Community Transport and Shopmobility.
- Befriending: If you’re interested in meeting new people, the Slough Befriending Service offers support face-to-face or by phone to anyone living in Slough. The service also helps to link people in to activities in the community.
If English is not your first language, Building Futures Together (BFT) runs a free, multilingual telephone befriending service. Support is available in the following languages: English, Punjabi, Urdu, Polish, Arabic, French, Hindi, Gujarati, Bengali, Tamil, Sinhalese, Patois, Spanish and Portuguese. For information, call 01753 555650 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Keeping fit and healthy: When someone is down, they might forget to take care of themselves. For this reason, regular exercise, at least eight hours’ sleep, drinking in moderation and eating healthily can really make a difference. There are loads of activities for all ages, many free, in the Active Slough programme.
- Getting involved in the community or taking up something new: Being part of an educational or social activity can be very rewarding, as well as a way to help with loneliness and social isolation. Taking up a hobby, joining a club or learning a new skill may even unlock a new passion. You can see some local activities in the Community Learning and Skills brochure.
- Volunteering: Helping others is a great way to get out and about, meet new people and give something back to your community. Slough Get Involved can help you find volunteering opportunities in your local area. Or try out Good Gym, where you can get fit, make friends and volunteer all at the same time.
- Consider getting a pet: Pets are wonderful companions and can provide comfort and support during times of stress, ill-health or isolation. If this is not possible, why not visit a friend or family member with a pet? Contact the Hillingdon, Slough, Windsor, Kingston & District RSPCA branch for advice on finding a pet that’s suitable for you. Or perhaps sign up to volunteer at an animal sanctuary or help take care of someone else’s pet while they are on holiday?
- Getting professional support: If loneliness and social isolation are causing you or someone you know distress and you think professional help is needed, you should discuss your concerns with a GP, counsellor or a trusted person. The Mind website also has some useful tips. Or try Kooth, a free online mental health tool for children, young people and adults in Slough. It provides online counselling and emotional well-being support, accessible through mobile, tablet and desktop.
Useful information sources for professionals