This week marks ‘loneliness awareness week‘, created and hosted by UK Loneliness charity Marmalade Trust and now in its 6th consecutive year. Here in Lewisham CCL is dedicated to supporting residents to overcome loneliness and isolation through connecting them with relevant social groups and services in their local community. It’s at the heart of what we do as a social prescribing service.
Loneliness is something that virtually all of us have or will experience at different times in our lives and for a variety of different reasons. It can be easier to ignore or dismiss than a physical condition, yet it’s a sad reality that long-term loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, increasing our risk of numerous health problems including depression, coronary heart disease, stroke, and dementia.
During last month’s networking event we talked about the negative impact of loneliness on people’s health and wellbeing. We emphasised how the support of GPs and medicine is not enough by itself to prevent health decline, yet local NHS services report that 20% of patients consult their GP for problems that are primarily social rather than medical.
The positive news is that the work of CCL and other social prescribing services are here to help people address the problem of loneliness. Over our helpline we support an average of 600 callers per month to find local social groups and support services that are right for them. In doing so we are using social prescribing both to reduce existing loneliness and as a preventative measure to stop it from taking root in people’s lives.