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Anne Callaghan on why the residents of Scotland's friendliest city need help to battle loneliness

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1st February 2018 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

There could be up to 15,000 chronically lonely older people in Glasgow. People who can go up to a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all. People who have been left behind. People who are invisible.

Nine in 10 people in Glasgow believe loneliness in older age is more likely now than ever. It’s seen as a normal part of life; just as getting older is inevitable, so too is loneliness. So why does loneliness matter?

Chronic loneliness is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Lonely people are more likely to develop depression, dementia and heart disease. Blood pressure and anxiety are higher for people without supportive relationships in their lives.

Anne Callaghan

Anne Callaghan

Combine the devastating health impacts of loneliness and a fast-ageing population (by 2040, the number of people 75 and older in the UK will double to around 10 million) with the Glasgow effect (Glasgow’s life expectancy is 30% lower than comparable cities) and we have a crisis on our hands. But it is a crisis that is avoidable if we work together.

That’s why we’re delighted to launch the Campaign to End Loneliness in Scotland. Our work begins with a Loneliness Summit in Glasgow, co-hosted with Glasgow City Council. We’re bringing together some of the most innovative ideas and organisations from around the UK to challenge and confront the loneliness epidemic in Scotland.

Loneliness in later life is not inevitable if we all play our part to tackle it. And there is no better city than Glasgow to demonstrate this.

Why? Because people make Glasgow. Glaswegians are known for their warm hearts and community spirit, essential qualities for tackling loneliness. We are proud to bring the Campaign to End Loneliness to the world’s friendliest city. And with our survey showing that two-thirds of Glaswegians have experienced loneliness, we know there is a lot of work to do.

The Campaign to End Loneliness is funded for three years by The Big Lottery Fund. Glasgow is one of four areas in each of the devolved nations that has been chosen to see how we can best combat loneliness. There is some fantastic outreach work to support older people in Glasgow but now we need a strategic and coordinated approach to combat loneliness which involves everyone. Later on this year, we will launch a major public campaign to encourage individuals, communities and businesses to take action on loneliness right across Scotland and in the UK as a whole.

Loneliness is everyone’s business. The need for friendship and support does not reduce with age. Whether we’re 24 or 84, we all need connections that matter. It’s time for us to all take action and connect with the thousands of lonely older people in our communities. We know Glasgow is ready to take on the challenge – together, we can end loneliness.

Anne Callaghan is campaign manager for Scotland for the the Campaign to End Loneliness. Follow it on Twitter @EndLonelinessUK