Many older people living in Scotland’s largest city do not admit feeling lonely for fear of being seen as a “burden”, according to research published today.
Despite Glasgow’s reputation as one of the world’s friendliest cities, two thirds of Glasgwegians have suffered from loneliness, a survey by the Campaign to End Loneliness (CEL) found.
Families moving away and adults working longer hours are both believed to have contributed to a rise in the number of older people feeling isolated, the research says.
It also suggests that the vast majority of Glaswegians have accepted loneliness as a part of life, with nine in ten agreeing that being lonely in old age is “more likely than ever”.
According to official statistics, more than 2.2 million Britons aged 75 and over live alone, an increase of almost a quarter (24 per cent) in just 20 years.
Scientific studies have suggested that being lonely is as bad for someone’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, with those affected more likely to suffer from dementia, heart disease and depression.
More than two thirds of Glaswegians (67 per cent) told researchers they had suffered from loneliness, with more than a quarter saying it had affected them on “many occasions”.
The findings are contained in a UK-wide survey of 2,240 people carried out in August and September last year, with around 750 of the respondents living in Glasgow.
The results suggest that there is still a strong stigma attached to loneliness, with the vast majority of older Glaswegians saying it is hard to admit for fear of being viewed as a “burden”.
A loneliness summit due to take place in the city on 6 February is being organised by the CEL in collaboration with Glasgow City Council.
The event will be opened by Scottish Makar Jackie Kay and is intended to highlight the issue ahead of a city-wide campaign to help those affected by loneliness.
Anne Callaghan, the CEL’s campaign manager for Scotland, described loneliness as an “epidemic” which carried “devastating” health effects.
“Glasgow is a world-leading friendly city and renowned for its big heart,” she added. “We welcome refugees and we strive to be a dementia-friendly city. Now it’s time for us to become a world-leader in tackling loneliness.”
She said the survey’s most worrying finding was that so many people feel loneliness is effectively inevitable in later life, calling for such assumptions to be challenged.
Last month the Scottish Government launched a new national strategy on loneliness, which called for people to speak to their neighbours more often and reconnect with old friends.
Susan Aitken, the leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “We have been working with various agencies and local groups to tackle this. The role of the summit is to bring those voices together.”