Rise of loneliness to be discussed at festival

Professor Rowland Atkinson, of the University of Sheffield
Professor Rowland Atkinson, of the University of Sheffield
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Loneliness and its damaging impact on society will be discussed by a panel of academics and mental health practitioners at the University of Sheffield’s Festival of Social Sciences.

Professor Rowland Atkinson, who has studied the therapeutic effects of isolation, said the event will examine loneliness “as a social problem that is likely to worsen in future”.

It will bring together experts in the field, including Gareth Parkin, programme lead at the £6m-Lottery funded Age Better in Sheffield project, which is being ran by South Yorkshire Housing Association and aimed at tackling loneliness and social isolation.

It is estimated there are over 16,000 lonely or social isolated people over 50 in Sheffield. The Yorkshire Post has been campaigning to raise awareness of the issue since February 2014.

Other speakers at the event, which takes place on Wednesday November 11, include Dr Lisa Proctor, a University of Sheffield researcher who has studied loneliness felt by young people with disabilities, and Dr Maz Hardey from Durham University, who has researched people who shun modern technology in favour of making face-to-face connections.

Prof Atkinson said: “In terms of the rise in single person households, the way technology is changing our lives and how demographics show us that society is ageing, we can see how loneliness is only going to rise as an issue in future.

“Society is changing, post offices are closing down, and even the rise in digital media means we’re no longer going the newsagents for our daily paper, so there are fewer and fewer chances to interact with people.

“Within social sciences there is increasing interest in how this all affects people subjectively, from making you feeling miserable to having an affect on physical health such as increasingly the likelihood of obesity.”

The event is one of a number of public debates, workshops, film screenings and exhibitions between November 7 and 14.

For more information visit http://festivalofsocialscience.group.shef.ac.uk/.