YP Letters: We all have a part to play in tackling scourge of loneliness

From: Mike Adamson, chief executive, British Red Cross.

Nine million people of all ages are afflicted by various forms of loneliness according to recently published research.

LONELINESS and social isolation have clear impacts on people’s health, wellbeing and behaviour (The Yorkshire Post, December 9).

They can be linked to increased death rates, blood pressure, risk of dementia and symptoms of depression. A lack of social connections has been reported to be as damaging to health as smoking and as serious a risk as obesity.

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Research for our Co-op partnership found that social isolation creates an identity crisis. We also found that loneliness is widespread issue. Eighty-eight per cent of people who took part in our public survey agreed that loneliness is a serious problem in the UK.

Almost 80 per cent of people have experienced loneliness, with nearly one in five people in Yorkshire and Humber and in the North East, saying they’re ‘always’ or ‘often’ lonely.

With a rising and ageing population, the number of people experiencing loneliness and isolation is expected to grow.

Our research has shown that interventions are most effective when preventing initial or temporary experiences of loneliness from becoming chronic. When left ignored, the impacts can escalate, leading to misery for individuals and unnecessary pressure on stretched NHS and care services.

Our long-established work on preventative projects – such as assisting somebody to return home from hospital, making sure they have enough to eat or take their medication – demonstrates real impacts on individuals.

Many of the people we support live alone. Without us, they would return home from hospital to an empty house and would not have enough support to live safely and independently. Our services are evidenced to improve wellbeing, social confidence, coping skills, and the ability to manage daily activities.

Over the next two years, the British Red Cross will provide direct, personalised support for up to 12,500 people. Brand new teams of dedicated staff and volunteers will deliver new services in Rotherham and York, and 39 other locations around the country. We want to thank the staff and members of Co-op food stores in Rotherham and York for contributing more than £62,000 towards the total that has been raised nationwide

We all have a part to play, from individuals within the community to local authorities. Where we believe the Red Cross and Co-op can add value is by mobilising people at the heart of our organisations – our members and our volunteers – to take action and create sustainable solutions.