City Lit Blog

"Let’s Talk Loneliness", 17-21 June 2019

Story added 17th Jun 2019

Lets Talk Loneliness, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, Office for Civil Society, Mims Davies MP

 

Let’s Talk Loneliness, 17 – 21 June 2019

 

This week is Loneliness Awareness Week, Let's Talk Loneliness is new initiative from Loneliness Minister Mims Davies to encourage people to speak out and help tackle the issue of loneliness.

There is much said about the reported social care 'crisis' in the UK. This has been caused by a myriad of factors, not least our rapidly ageing population, but one factor that often gets overlooked is the issue of loneliness.

Figures from the 'Campaign to End' Loneliness suggest as many as 1 in 10 appointments made with GPs can be directly attributed to loneliness. Studies show loneliness can have a stark impact on a person's mental and physical health, with a lack of social activity equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day in terms of long term health impact.

The 'Campaign to End Loneliness' also demonstrate that it's simple everyday human contact that many people miss most of all - whether that's enjoying a laugh with a friend (51%) or even receiving a hug from a friend or loved one (46%). However it's not, as many assume, an issue solely confined to the elderly. Even with the multitude of opportunities to connect presented by social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter, and apps such as WhatsApp, recent research from counselling service Relate suggests as many as one in five Brits regularly feel lonely, with one in eight saying they had no close friend they could turn to in a time of need. Reading these stark figures, it's perhaps unsurprising to hear talk of a 'crisis' in social care. And, whilst technology can be one remedy to help people overcome crippling loneliness, these figures are also a reminder that there really is very little that can match face-to-face human contact in breaking down the barriers around this growing societal issue.

Minister for Loneliness Mims Davies said “Loneliness is one of the biggest health challenges our country faces. It can affect anyone at any time and its impact is in line with smoking or obesity. But we can only begin to help one another if we feel able to understand, recognise and talk about it.” 

“Let’s Talk Loneliness’ will encourage us all to engage with this issue, speak up without stigma, spot the signs of loneliness and help build more meaningful connections so people feel less isolated.”

The campaign brings together charities such as the Marmalade Trust, the Co-op Foundation, the British Red Cross, the Campaign to End Loneliness, Mind, Public Health England and the Jo Cox Foundation to help people talk about their feelings. Whilst there is no 'one size fits all' solution to curbing the issue of loneliness, we are confident that adult education is just one route to help tackle the problem head on. 

 

Phil Chamberlain, Executive Director for External Engagement at City Lit, commented: “At City Lit, we believe lifelong learning is key to helping people stay mentally stimulated throughout both their working life and well into retirement - broadening horizons, challenging people to leave their comfort zone and 'conquer new worlds', and helping people to make new contacts and connections that may have seemed beyond reach prior to setting out on a course. Day in day out, we see how adult learning opportunities can transform the confidence and wellbeing of our students - which leads us to believe we can help beat the stigma of loneliness and promote a sense of belonging in our London community. Loneliness is too big an issue to have one simple solution applied to it, and that is why the campaign launched today is a real step in the right direction”. 

New YouGov research shows people in cities surveyed had a higher incidence of reporting feeling lonely than the UK overall (56% v. 44%). One of the great joys of working at City Lit is the jovial atmosphere that is immediately apparent as you walk through our doors each day - our café area is a hive of activity with students of all ages laughing, debating or simply catching up. 

25% of adults have reported feeling lonely on weekends. At City Lit we believe lifelong learning is key to helping people stay mentally stimulated throughout both their home, working life and well into retirement - broadening horizons, challenging people to leave their comfort zone and 'conquer new worlds', and helping people to make new contacts and connections that may have seemed beyond reach prior to setting out on a course.

We've witnessed countless examples of how adult learning transforms confidence and wellbeing – from Penelope, a retired teacher who attended courses here to help bring back a sense of purpose to her life, to Yunus, a student in his 80s who has been studying here since the early 1960s due to the intellectual stimulation and sense of community he believes adult education provides him. Over 20,000 of our enrolments each year are from people over the age of 60, so it is clear there is a huge appetite amongst this demographic for both mental stimulation and the sense of community adult learning can foster.

The malevolent effect of loneliness on social care doesn't always get the national attention we believe it deserves. It's an issue that is not going away - and it's one that will continue to place a huge burden on the NHS if closer scrutiny is not paid to the issue.

 

#LetsTalkLoneliness

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