Campaigners warn loneliness is 'hidden killer' of elderly

16 February 2012

Loneliness is the ‘hidden killer’ of older people, according to a new charity campaign which is calling for greater recognition of the link between isolation and ill-health

The Campaign to End Loneliness warns that lonely older people are at increased risk of depression, lack of exercise and bad diet.

The campaign, set up by a range of charities – including People’s Health Trust funded group WRVS - warns that almost one in ten older people suffer from ‘intense’ loneliness.

The campaign group wants loneliness to be recognised as a public health issue - and has published a survey claiming that fewer than one in five people is aware of the link between poor health and loneliness.

Laura Ferguson, Director of the Campaign said: "The problems of loneliness and isolation need to be put on an equal footing with any other condition associated with ageing. Ending loneliness should be part of the solution to the challenge of reforming care and support."

She said that one in ten older people see their friends or families less than once a month and often feel ‘trapped’ in their own homes as a result of isolation and lack of mobility.

According to the campaign, informal and formal attempts are needed to tackle loneliness, either through organised befriending schemes or through neighbours helping one another if health problems were to be tackled.

One way to tackle loneliness in old age, according to David Halpern, an adviser to the Prime Minister, is for older people to continue to work past retirement age.

He said: “Work matters, particularly for older people, not just for money, but for social contact. If you’ve got someone who loves you, someone you can talk to if you’ve got a problem, that is a more powerful predictor of whether you’ll be alive in 10 years’ time, more than almost any other factor, certainly more than smoking.”

The campaign has been set up by Independent Age, Age UK Oxfordshire, Counsel and Care and WRVS and funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

More information on the campaign can be found at


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