Wednesday 21 February 2018

Loneliness 'equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day'

Photo: PA
Photo: PA

Ian Begley

Loneliness is twice as dangerous to older people and the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarette a day, according to Irish charity ALONE.

The charity for vulnerable older people also revealed that one in three people over 65 live on their own.

Sean Moynihan, CEO of ALONE, said he believes that many people are not aware just how devastating loneliness can be for your general health.

“As an organisation that works with vulnerable older people, we interact first hand with the effects of loneliness every day,” he said.

“Not only can loneliness lead to depression, but it is also a predictor for dementia, cardiovascular disease and decreased immune system responsively. Loneliness is twice as dangerous to the health of an older person as obesity, and is as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”

To mark International Day of Older People, which is today, ALONE is highlighting the importance of Befriending services nationwide in the prevention of loneliness and related health issues.

ALONE’s Befriending Services provides companionship to older people who are socially isolated through a weekly volunteer visit as well as a range of social events.

“We are continually developing the service to ensure that all older people who require it will have access to a quality assured befriending service. All of our volunteers are trained to a high standard, Garda vetted and they are supported by experienced mentors,” added Moynihan.

“We receive no day-to-day government funding for our services which provide a lifeline for thousands of vulnerable older people. Befriending is a preventative health measure and given that mental health problems have an estimated overall economic cost of €3 billion per annum, we would implore the government to take a better look at this key health service.”

ALONE is encouraging any older person looking for a Befriending Service in their area to get in touch and call 01 679 1032.

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