Loneliness A Public Health Crisis As Damaging As Poverty And Poor Housing: Report
Loneliness is becoming such a critical problem in Scotland that it has been compared to poverty and poor housing in terms of how damaging it is to public health.
A report made by the Equal Opportunities Committee found that loneliness in Scotland has reached such a critical point that some elderly Scots have taken to booking appointments with their doctors or reporting to the emergency department all because they have no one to talk to.
An old man reportedly rode buses all day because he had nothing else to do. There was even a woman who was so ashamed of her social isolation that she lived for six months without electricity and on scavenged food.
The committee found that Scots, especially their elderly, are reportedly suffering from social isolation, to the point that the said Scottish Parliament's committee is urging the government to prioritize it as a public health issue.
The committee is also calling for the government to help reduce the stigma of admitting to feeling loneliness among Scots, a call charities and organizations focused on healthy ageing and caring for the elderly can agree to.
"Age Scotland believes that no-one should have no-one. Everyone needs social connections and company, and an absence of these can be devastating for our mental and physical wellbeing," said Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, a charity dedicated to helping older adults live their last years to the fullest.
Aside from the old, young adults are also vulnerable to social isolation due to the proliferation of social media sites.
Anela Anwar of Roshni, an organization that works extensively with minority ethnic communities, said that young people may forget how it is like to have face to face interaction and spending company with others in real life because of their reliance on social media sites.
Bullying and feeling left out in social groups can also lead to feelings of isolation. This can be a bigger problem for people belonging to ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities or those suffering from discrimination like members of the LGBTI community.
"This is an important issue, with no easy answers, however we are committed to exploring what more we can do to tackle this serious issue," A Scottish government spokesperson said. The findings of the report will be put as a government consideration to determine how the problem will be handled.
As of now, interventions by charities and other concerned groups have helped combat the loneliness.
A woman who became depressed after a leg amputation is now learning how to drive with the help of the Glasgow Disability Alliance charity. The Food Train charity had elderly people come into the group and have found ways to carry on with their lives by taking part in the group's charitable activities.