Forget the turkey and Christmas excesses. It’s loneliness that’s the real health issue.
For many people, Christmas is a time for celebration, fun and joviality. Attending Christmas parties; seeing friends and family; over-eating on Christmas day, followed up with a major health kick and dieting in January.
But for many people in our society – the real health risk at Christmas will not be eating too much turkey. It’s loneliness.
Whilst many of us will enjoy a Christmas season of fun, family, friendship and food, many people in our society will be alone.
For those people facing isolation, they not only experience a poverty of relationship and community; their health and life outcomes are reduced.
In short – isolation is not just a sad story for Christmas. It’s seriously bad for your health.
Disabled people are at high risk of being socially isolated. They can experience all sorts of barriers to a flourishing life: benefit cuts, unemployment, lack of educational opportunities, poverty, poor accessibility in public spaces, and prejudice from others.
Social isolation impacts disabled people, but is also a massive issue for many people in our society. Where communities are disconnected, there are significant health inequalities that see peoples’ life outcomes and wellbeing negatively impacted.
- Social isolation has a more negative effect on wellbeing than physical inactivity, obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
- The poor can expect to die seven years sooner than the rich, and to become disabled 17 years earlier.
- Lonely people are most at risk to the onset of disability and have a 64% increased chance of developing clinical dementia.
- 3.6 million people aged 65 and over agree that the television is their main form of company.
As we journey towards Christmas, may we take time consider those in our society who struggle to connect, face barriers to their inclusion and who long to belong. May we take action in working to connect people with their communities, include the excluded and extend an invitation of welcome and support to all.