Loneliness is set to soar among the over-50s in the coming seven years, a charity has warned.
Age UK said that the proportion of people in this age bracket who report being lonely “often” has remained relatively constant.
But because the older population is rising, an increasing number of people will be burdened with loneliness, the charity warned.
Based on current levels of people who report often feeling lonely and population projections, the charity has estimated that the number of people aged 50 and over living in England who will often feel lonely will increase by half a million people by 2020/21.
This will reach two million people by 2025/26. In 2016/17 the figure stood at 1.4 million.
Age UK warned that loneliness can seriously impact a person’s health and wellbeing.
According to the charity’s new report, Loneliness Amongst Older People, people aged 50 and over are more likely to be often lonely if they: have no one to open up to when they need to talk; are widowed; are in poor health; feel as if they do not belong in their neighbourhood; are unable do what they want or they live alone.
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For instance, a person who has been widowed can be five times more likely to suffer from loneliness compared with older people in a relationship, the charity said.
It has called on the government to implement a series of measures and strategies to help people who feel lonely.
“Our population is ageing quite fast and so we’re heading towards having two million lonely over-50s in less than a decade, with serious knock-on consequences for their physical and mental health, and therefore for the NHS, unless we take action now,” said Age UK’s charity director Caroline Abrahams.
“This is why the government’s forthcoming Loneliness Strategy is so timely and important: it needs to contain a raft of measures to prevent and address loneliness among people of all ages, plus enough resources so they can be implemented.
“The government cannot ‘solve loneliness’ on its own, but it can ensure the foundations are in place so all of us can play our part, as neighbours, relatives, friends, employers and volunteers.
“People suffering with chronic loneliness may well need one-to-one help on a sustained basis, so this must be factored into the government’s plan.
“Age UK would also like to see a ‘Loneliness Test’ introduced for new government policies, to make sure they don’t unintentionally make the problem worse.”