Both the NHS’s Long Term Plan and formal advice from the US Surgeon General rely on moving care out of medical institutions such as hospitals and into communities. Not only have we not done anything to prepare communities for this new role and its responsibilities, but our communities are also getting increasingly weak and fragmented.
We all know the mental health consequences of inadequate levels of socialisation: depression, personality disorders and confusion are just a few. What is less well known are the physical health consequences: 29% increase in chance of stroke, 32% increase in risk of heart disease, 50% increase in chance of developing dementia. Indeed, inadequate levels of socialisation influence our survivability more than being obese, and the health consequences are comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Loneliness & Friendship Epidemic
This makes the fact that we are in a loneliness epidemic and friendship recession even more tragic. According to research by the Office for National Statistics, 49% of Brits are lonely at least some of the time, rising to 56% when looking at respondents aged 30-49. Additionally, 15% of young men today report having no close friends, compared to 3% in the 1990s.
Loneliness costs the UK economy £2.5B per year through the products of:
- Costs associated to absences due to related sickness.
- The costs to employers of the associated caring activity by employees.
- Costs associated to reduction in productivity.
- Costs related to the increase in voluntary staff turnover.
Our current approaches to tackling this behemoth health issue are limited, and all of them are still a reactive form of care. The financial, health and relationship costs have already been paid.