Over 2300 pensioners in East Dunbartonshire could be suffering physical and mental health problems as a result of being lonely.
Today local MP Jo Swinson highlighted loneliness as a major health and care issue to be taken seriously by government and local organisations alike.
According to national and international research – an average of 10 per cent of the over 65s say they are lonely or very lonely. In East Dunbartonshire this means there are around 2300 lonely pensioners who could be experiencing serious long-term effects on their health as a result.
Commenting Jo Swinson said:
"If we don't start to champion loneliness as a health and care issue, elderly people in the local community will continue to have their lives cut short.
"So I intend to highlight the importance of this issue here in East Dunbartonshire.
"As a Liberal Democrat MP I believe the more we can do to provide people with the social contact they need to stay physically and mentally well, the better it is our older population.
"While local groups like the Friendship Circle and the various lunch clubs provide a way for the elderly to socialise, with an ageing population we will need more groups like this, right across East Dunbartonshire, in order to combat this problem."
Lib Dem Minister of State for Care Services Paul Burstow MP said:
"Loneliness is one of society's unspoken problems. Far too many people live alone, without day to day contact with friends, family and neighbours.
"Not only is it morally right that we reach out to each other and make sure no one lives in isolation, but research shows that loneliness has as direct an influence on mortality as the effects of alcohol and tobacco."
- A US study recently found loneliness can increase the risk of death amongst the over 60s by almost 10 per cent (University of California).
- Loneliness increases the risk of heart disease and puts people at greater risk of blood clots.
- Loneliness also makes people more likely to drink more, eat more and exercise less.
- A 2006 study of 3,000 nurses with breast cancer found women without close friends were four times more likely to die than women with 10 or more friends.
- Studies have also shown that loneliness is a significant predictor of poor health and in some cases, worse than tobacco and alcohol.