Thousands of Scots set to be lonely this Christmas

About 60,000 people over the age of 65 in Scotland will spend Christmas Day alone.
More than 60,000 people over the age of 65 will spend Christmas alone. Picture: GettyMore than 60,000 people over the age of 65 will spend Christmas alone. Picture: Getty
More than 60,000 people over the age of 65 will spend Christmas alone. Picture: Getty

The Age Scotland figures released today have revealed a 50 per cent increase on 2015, showing a surge in the “epidemic” of loneliness.

The statistics come as the charity launches its “no-one should have no-one” campaign to highlight the extent of loneliness and isolation across the country.

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Age Scotland chief executive Brian Sloan said: “The epidemic of loneliness among older people is having a devastating impact on their health and wellbeing.

“While most of us are looking forward to spending the festive period with family or friends, it’s sobering to think that 60,000 older Scots will have only their television for company. “Many more will go for days without a visit or even a phone call from family or friends.

“It’s heartbreaking that so many people lose their confidence and sense of self-worth as they get older.

“We hear from older people via our helpline who feel trapped in their homes and simply want to hear the sound of a human voice. We have regular callers who call to ask what day or time it is as their days are so repetitive, or say they sleep most of the day as there’s nothing else to do.”

Loneliness can have a serious impact on both physical and mental health, causing long-term “misery” and contributing to the development of serious medical conditions.

About 80,000 people over 65 feel lonelier at Christmas than at any other time of year, with those who have been widowed most at risk, according to the study.

The same number view TV as their only source of company over the festive period. Nearly one in five keep it on all day because “it’s lovely to hear human voices”.

Almost one in ten older people will spend half or more of their days alone over Christmas, without even a phone call or visit from a friend or relative.

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The research shows one in ten older Scots leave their home only once a week or less often, while 3 per cent do not usually leave their home in a month. Mr Sloan gave his backing to a Scottish Government commitment to tackle loneliness.

He added: “We can also all do our bit to reach out to older people in our communities, whether that’s volunteering as a befriender or simply popping round to check on a neighbour.

“Something as simple as taking time for a chat and a cuppa can make a huge difference.”

The study interviewed 2,585 adults over 65 across the UK, including 268 in Scotland, with figures weighted to represent all Scottish OAPs.

Shadow Health Secretary and Lothian MSP Miles Briggs said: “This is an upsetting and serious piece of research which highlights again that tackling the issue of loneliness and social isolation among our elderly is something we all need to help address.

“Edinburgh has been rated as being the UK’s loneliest city and that is something we should all be concerned about and need to change.”