Loneliness can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, which is why NHS Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Calderdale Council are jointly investing nearly £1 million to tackle the problem.
The funding will deliver a programme which will work with established community organisations and community development trusts across Calderdale to strengthen existing support.
NHS Calderdale’s CCG’s Clinical Lead Dr Steven Cleasby said:
“We want to put an end to loneliness. We know that 11,520 people aged over 65 live alone in Calderdale and estimate that about 30% feel lonely with another 12% feeling trapped in their own home. Lonely people are also more likely to visit their GP, have higher use of medication, fall more frequently and become more reliant on care services.
“As well as the impact on a person’s physical health, loneliness and low social interaction are reasons for mental illness and even suicide in older age. It particularly affects the over 75s who are a priority for the CCG.”
The Calderdale programme will:
- Establish a group of experts who will form partnerships with the public, private and voluntary sector to create ideas and put them into practice.
- Improve access for people and the health and social care sector by bringing together existing community schemes
- Encourage the community to get involved in creating innovative ways to bring lonely people together and draw them into community life
- Help everyone understand the impact of loneliness and how they can help.
Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Health Inequalities, Councillor Simon Young said:
“We all know that having a good social network, including family, friends and neighbours enriches our lives by providing company and support through good times and bad. It’s also clear that it can help reduce the risk of premature death and can even help speed recovery when we do fall ill.
“Loneliness can increase the risk of high blood pressure, lead to a higher risk of a disability, reduce life expectancy and damage physical health. It’s not surprising that lonely people are more prone to depression and have a 64% increased chance of developing clinical dementia. No one should or needs to be lonely and that’s why we are working closely with our partners at the NHS to do what we can to support people when they need it.”
With this early help, the benefits should include more social interaction and as a result less need for services, and a reduction in GP calls, admissions to hospitals, care homes and carers’ services.
Calderdale Council’s Director of Public Health, Paul Butcher said:
“We are still in the early stages of planning the programme but we have already researched schemes which have worked well in other areas.
“This could include befriending lonely older people providing them with regular contact with a friendly face; activity clubs where people can meet to prepare and share meals for those who struggle to cook and mobile solutions to help dementia sufferers get around.”