Loneliness could become an epidemic MSPs warn

Lonely man

An inquiry hears how loneliness and isolation is causing far reaching problems in Scottish society 

28th October 2015 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

A loneliness epidemic haunts Scotland and could get more severe unless society pulls together and supports those most at risk from social exclusion.

The Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee launched its report on how loneliness is blighting the nation and found that its effects were as significant as low income and poor housing.

MSPs now want the Scottish Government to prioritise the issue as part of its public health agenda while also calling for a specific strategy to reduce loneliness.

Members of the committee launched the report at Impact Arts Craft Café in Edinburgh.

The charity runs an arts and crafts project in a care home run by Viewpoint Housing Association in the city.    

The report is the results of a major inquiry that saw the committee travel the length and breadth of the country taking evidence from young and old people alike.

They found that in older people loneliness was linked to dementia rates and malnutrition while in younger people it led to bullying.

Loneliness was also worse for those belonging to ethic minorities and the LGBT community, MSPs heard. 

The solution lies with us all. Society as whole needs to be much more aware of how loneliness affects society - Marageret Mc

Margaret McCulloch, the committee's convenor and Labour MSP, said: "This is an important issue, with no easy answers, however we are committed to exploring what more we can do to tackle this serious issue which still affects too many in Scotland.

“The solution lies with us all. Society as whole needs to be much more aware of how the impact of loneliness affects wider society.

“We therefore need to invest in a range of initiatives to combat isolation and also to raise awareness so that people aren’t discouraged from coming forward and admitting that they feel lonely or isolated.”

To highlight the extent of the problem, it cited research conducted by Age UK last year which found that more than 80,000 people aged 65 and over living in Scotland felt lonely “always” or “often”.

Around 350,000 said their TV was their main form of company.

Sandra Stuart of Glasgow Disability Alliance (GDA) told of a woman with complex health issues who had undergone a leg amputation.

She told GDA: “I’ve got carers coming in so I am up, dressed and ready to go nowhere by 9am.

“It’s so frustrating that I can’t get help to go out and do stuff.”

With support from GDA the woman is learning to drive and attends a range of programmes and courses.

Stuart added: “Instead of getting up and putting on clean pyjamas, she now has a full diary.”

Anela Anwar of Roshni, an organisation that works with minority ethnic communities, felt that while social media has a part to play, sometimes connections are lost and they need to be built.

She added: “Young people can forget what it is like to be in the company of other young people.”

And Alison Love of the Royal Voluntary Service told the committee that older people supported by the organisation visited their GPs every Monday because they have no-one else for company.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said it was “committed to tackling inequality and social exclusion”.

They added: “This is an important issue, with no easy answers, however we are committed to exploring what more we can do to tackle this serious issue which still affects too many in Scotland.

"The committee’s considerations are wide ranging and we will consider them fully before responding to the report’s recommendations.”