Conference to examine impact of loneliness on health


Event comes as study suggests social isolation can be more harmful than smoking or obesity

21st November 2016 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

Third sector bosses are to investigate ways to tackle loneliness and social isolation at a conference this week.

The one-day event, being held at Edinburgh’s Roxburghe Hotel, will bring together experts from charities, academia and the health and care sectors to discuss the negative impact loneliness has on health in Scotland.

Speakers will include Dr Catherine Calderwood, the country’s chief medical officer, executive director for Samaritans in Scotland James Jopling, and Claire Stevens, chief officer of Voluntary Health Scotland.

Presentations will explore the difference a national strategy could make and examine a range of third sector approaches to social isolation.

Addressing social isolation and loneliness must be close to the heart of broader public health policy in Scotland

Following the event, proposals will be presented to the Scottish Government for consideration in its strategy on tackling loneliness.

Conference chair Carolyn Sawers, Big Lottery Fund Scotland head of policy and learning, said: “Understanding and tackling loneliness and social isolation in Scotland will lead to better physical health and wellbeing for people of all ages in all communities across Scotland.

“This conference seeks to explore and share best practice across the third sector tackling this issue and highlighting how we can all make a difference, some small some big, leading to a better future for everyone.”

The conference comes as studies suggested a lack of social connections is a comparable risk factor for early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is more harmful than well-known risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity.

Dr Andrew Fraser, director of public health at NHS Health Scotland, will speak at the event.

He said: “We cannot isolate isolation. Coming together to address it is crucial.

“If we are to improve the public’s health, equitably, addressing social isolation and loneliness must be close to the heart of broader public health policy in Scotland. We need a joined up and human rights based response to social isolation and loneliness to create the fairer, healthier Scotland we all want.”

The conference, which is fully booked, has been organised by Voluntary Health Scotland. Any parties who require information on the event's key findings is asked to contact VHS's policy officer Kiren Zubairi via email