How to spot signs of loneliness at Christmas

Christmas is a time when merriment, family get-togethers and parties with friends is high on many people’s agenda, but did you know that this year, thousands of older adults will spend it alone? 

According to Age UK, there will be half a million older people in the UK who feel lonely this festive season for any number of reasons. While loneliness can affect anyone of any age, older people are particularly vulnerable as they retire, become less mobile, family and friends move away and the loss of loved ones. 

The signs of loneliness

It can be difficult to spot if someone you know is lonely because being alone doesn’t necessarily mean someone is suffering. And if someone is surrounded by people, they might still feel a sense of loneliness. So, how do you spot if someone is lonely? Here are a few signs to look out for:

  • Spending a lot of time at home and watching TV
  • Becoming less sociable than they used to be
  • Not eating well or eating less
  • Having negative thoughts, such as thinking they are a burden to their family
  • Negative feelings and low self-worth 

What can you do to help?

If you think someone you know if suffering from loneliness, it’s important to let them know they aren’t alone. If possible, visit them at their home for as chat over a cup of tea, invite them over to your house for Christmas dinner or take them out on a day trip to a festive Christmas market. If you live far away and it’s not possible to visit in person, make sure to keep them involved in your plans with regular phone and video calls. As with any condition, if you are worried for their wellbeing, encourage them to see a doctor for specialist help and advice. 

While taking care to spot signs of loneliness is especially important at Christmas, the condition effects people all year round. Indeed, Age UK estimate there to be 2.5million older people with no one to turn to in the UK alone. So, it’s important to remember to be aware of our friends, family and neighbours, especially those who are elderly, throughout the year. 

The effects of loneliness 

Being chronically lonely doesn’t mean just feeling a bit down because you haven’t seen a friend or family member recently. It’s a serious condition that affects both the mental and physical wellbeing in many ways. If left unchecked, chronic loneliness can lead to sleep disorders, depression, dementia, anxiety, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, among other things. It is vital that something is done to combat this condition, especially with our ageing population that suggests the epidemic will only get worse, and keeping an eye out for each other is great place to start. 

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