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Chronic loneliness 'has become a public health issue', warns British Red Cross

British Red Cross

3 min read Partner content

Social isolation and chronic loneliness is impacting people’s health and public services, warns British Red Cross CEO Mike Adamson.

“What does it feel like to be lonely? I can tell you exactly, it's like being in a bubble and you want to get out but you just can’t.” Research participant, anonymous.

Loneliness – that taboo subject that affects so many people across the UK – has become a public health issue. It is an increasing yet under-recognised crisis, adversely affecting millions of people in our society – shortening lives and eroding health and wellbeing.

Loneliness affects everyone. It can be felt by new mums, the recently retired, those who are well and those who are unwell. It does not discriminate, meaning it is likely that someone we know will face loneliness at some point in their lives.

Studies show loneliness can be as damaging to health as smoking and obesity. Social isolation can also be linked to cardiovascular health risks, poor diet, heavy drinking and increased blood pressure, signs of ageing, risks of dementia, symptoms of depression and re-hospitalisation after illness.

Without the right support, loneliness can transition from a temporary situation to a chronic issue. This not only impacts people’s health, but also our hard-pressed public services.

Recognising the size of the problem is one part of the solution – the next, and most vital question, is – what do we do about it?

The causes of loneliness are often complex and it is, for many, a personal crisis. People who feel lonely face a negative and challenging reality, so the key is early intervention to prevent loneliness from becoming chronic.

Together with the Co-op, we have produced detailed research to understand the nature and impact of loneliness, and what action our two organisations can take to help address this crisis in the UK. The full results of this research and our proposed response will be published at a special launch event in Westminster on 8 December.

Addressing loneliness can improve health, confidence and wellbeing – all aspects of a person’s life that when in decline, lead to the need for more support from the NHS and care providers. Expanding and investing in these services could make the world of difference to both those facing loneliness and the health sector.


Date:     Thursday 8th December 2016
Arrival:  Informal networking and refreshments from 10am for 10.30am start
Close:    12:30pm followed by informal networking over buffet lunch
Venue:  One Whitehall Place, 2 Whitehall Court, Whitehall, London SW1A 2EJ.

If you would like to attend the launch of our research please email

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Connecting Communities

Connecting Communities is an initiative aimed at empowering and strengthening community ties across the UK. Launched in partnership with The National Lottery, it aims to promote dialogue and support Parliamentarians working to nurture a more connected society.

Find out more