Guest Column: Loneliness is a hidden health risk

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I might be feeding a stereotype of a typical Yorkshire person here, but I honestly believe that the power of a good cup of tea really can’t be underestimated.

Tea seems to be the perfect start to a conversation, and it somehow seems to fill the quiet when nobody’s there to have a conversation with.

Sad as it may sound, the mug and the milk are comforting company when there’s no one else around.

Now while there’s undoubtable power in the teapot, even over a brew we’re not very likely to spark up a conversation about loneliness and that includes the more loquacious of us.

In knowing that 50% of people over 65 say the TV is their main source of company, we know that conversations about loneliness are few and far between and that sweeping the subject under the carpet along with the biscuit crumbs seems easier than bringing it to the surface.

But can we bury our head in those biscuit crumbs forever?

Absolutely not. It’s time to stand up and shake off the sugar Sheffield!

It’s shocking but true, that loneliness is more harmful to health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day and its effect on mortality exceeds the impact of obesity.

We know that older people are more at risk of loneliness and worryingly recent research shows 17% of older people are in contact with their friends and family less than once a week, 11% are in contact less than once a month. So this is a massive issue for Sheffield and one that needs a Sheffield sized response.

So here we have it…’Age Better in Sheffield’ is a campaign to spark discussion about loneliness and isolation across Sheffield.

The campaign is part of a bid being submitted to the Big Lottery Fund by South Yorkshire Housing Association which could bring an investment of up to £6m to Sheffield to reduce loneliness and isolation in people over 50. 

To successfully bring this much needed investment to our great city, we need you to get involved.

We’re going to be posting ‘assignments’ where we ask you to take small actions to reduce loneliness and isolation and we’ll be capturing your stories online and in print.

So watch this space for the first assignment, coming soon.

Come on Sheffield; let’s make our response to loneliness as strong as our brew.

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