Loneliness rife among older men – WRVS 26 July 2012

Many men over 75 suffer from lack of social contact and depression

190,000 British men over 75, who live alone, are lonely according to WRVS research, which identified 36 per cent spend more than 12 hours of the day on their own.

The research found that these men are more likely to be lonely than women, however they are less likely to confide in friends and family about their feelings (11 per cent men, 24 per cent women).

The findings also highlight the extent to which these men are socially isolated with 41 per cent typically having two or less face to face conversations a day and one in 33 (three per cent) having none.

There is widespread agreement amongst experts that loneliness is a serious health issue because it makes it more likely that older people will develop illnesses that reach crisis level and need hospital care.

Worryingly, despite 54 per cent of men who feel lonely admitting to suffering from feelings of depression75 per cent of these men have never sought help for feelings of loneliness. As well as depression, another consequence of loneliness amongst both the older men and women surveyed was loss of confidence, which 36 per cent cited.

The survey revealed a range of reasons why older men feel lonely, but for many (62 per cent) it is because their partner has passed away or as a result of losing companions their own age (54 per cent).

On the release of the research WRVS is calling for more volunteers – male and female – to join our befriending service, after 85 per cent of men who are lonely said they feel better after seeing friends or family.

WRVS CEO David McCullough“These are stark findings. And, given the stigma attached to admitting to being lonely and needing help, this may even be an optimistic snapshot. We know that without our volunteers, visiting people in their homes, many older people wouldn’t see another person or even have a conversation from one week to the next and this can lead to debilitating feelings of extreme loneliness. That’s why we are calling for more people to come forward to volunteer and spend just a couple of hours a week, or whatever they can spare, to make a huge difference to the lives and well-being of older people in the community.”

David McCullough, Chief Executive, WRVS

Today’s research among men and women over 75 who live alone also shows that:

  • 13 per cent of older people don’t get out and about in their communities because they are unable to leave the house due to ill health; and 15 per cent cited having no one to accompany them and that they don’t like to go out alone.
  • As a result of feeling lonely 17 per cent of those surveyed said that they had lost touch with friends and 46 per cent said that they don’t go out as much; 26 per cent reported giving up on their hobbies because of feeling lonely.
  •  21 per cent of those who are lonely agreed that they don’t leave the house for days, nine per cent that they no longer eat properly.
  • One in eight older people who are lonely said they worry about their mental health because they have no-one to talk to.

These findings add to the mounting evidence showing that loneliness is a serious health problem for older people and one that is particularly acute in this country. A WRVS report , published in May 2012, showed that older people in the UK are the loneliest across four comparable European countries.

“It’s time that we all take this problem seriously and understand that the consequence of this kind of extreme loneliness is that older people end up in hospital unnecessarily because loneliness leads to a deterioration in their physical and mental well-being.

“It is good to see that the Government and local authorities have made a commitment in the social care white paper for loneliness to be mapped in each area. This research shows how crucial it is for Health and Wellbeing boards to deliver on the targets for loneliness they have been set. Action is urgently needed on the ground now to make sure older people experiencing loneliness get the help they need.”

David McCullough, Chief Executive, WRVS

For further information

WRVS is one of Britain’s leading age positive volunteering charities with more than 40,000 volunteers working to help make Britain a great place to grow old in.  If you are over the age of 14, we have volunteering opportunities in communities, in hospitals and in emergency situations.

Find out how you could become a WRVS volunteer, call 0845 601 4670 today or search for volunteering opportunities in your area. Or help make a difference by making a secure online donation to WRVS.