As we begin Loneliness Awareness Week, 13 – 17th June, we ask the question, can loneliness really affect your health? Feeling lonely from time to time is normal, but research shows that long-term loneliness is associated with both poor physical and mental health.
The mental health charity Mind explains that loneliness is not necessarily about being alone, but about what we gain from our social interactions, whether we feel fulfilled, connected, and understood.1
Loneliness is associated with a range of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, psychosis and suicidal thoughts. There’s also an association between loneliness, cognitive decline and the onset of dementia.2Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) Loneliness Evidence Group
At any age, loneliness can have significant effects on overall health, but it can be hardest to overcome in later life. Having friendships and support is a fundamental part of ensuring our well-being. Here at Community Lives Matter, we help tackle loneliness by providing opportunities for people on their own or feeling lonely to be involved in social activities and meet other people.
Our weekly luncheon club brings people together to make new friends and socialise not just to enjoy a fantastic three course meal; asylum seekers and refugees are encouraged to join us for support, games and a friendly smile. The weekly indoor bowls group for those with dementia and their carers and families has been a life-saver, enabling people to come together to play, have a catch up, and often a well deserved laugh.
The Covid-19 pandemic played such a detrimental role in increasing people’s experiences of loneliness, with factors such as enforced social isolation, bereavements, and the inability to work as usual, all contributing greatly. Long-term isolation and a lack of social stimulation has long been associated with cognitive decline, affecting memory loss and often developing into more serious neurological disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s.3
To challenge this, with the essential support of our volunteers, we also provide our dementia cafe which runs once a month. This hosts a range of activities designed to keep our brains active! Group activities figure highly such as indoor gardening, which took place in May, retro jigsaws, physical exercise, such as table tennis and pool, and trips out, to name but a few!
We are keen to provide more regular support for those feeling lonely and isolated in our community with the development of a befriending project. Having run a pilot scheme, we are now ready to recruit more volunteers to enable us to reach out further. If you are interested in this rewarding voluntary role, or any of our other activities, please contact us.
(2) The 2022 Tackling loneliness evidence review by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Loneliness Evidence Group, available at gov.uk/government/publications/tackling-loneliness-evidence-review