“We are experiencing a silver tsunami demographically. The baby boomers are reaching retirement age… People have to think about how to protect themselves from depression, low subjective wellbeing and early mortality.” reports Independent Catholic News in the following story.
The SVP in the UK knows this situation first hand… as probably do other units of the SVDP and branches of the Vincentian Family.
Professor John Cacioppo (Professor of Psychology), a leading expert on loneliness, said that lonely people are nearly twice as likely to die prematurely as those who do not suffer feelings of isolation.
Presenting in Chicago this February, he said:
In the UK, the Mental Health Foundation’s report ‘The Lonely Society’ claims that our individualistic society is harming our mental and physical health.
Ask any volunteer of the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) and they will be able to give numerous examples of people they visit who are lonely and isolated. As well as visiting people in their homes, hospital or in retirement facilities, the SVP provides transport to take isolated individuals to key appointments, to church, or simply to the shops.
Elizabeth Palmer, CEO of the SVP, said: “SVP members made over half a million visits to those in need last year and loneliness is one of the major issues they are confronted with, especially the loneliness and isolation of older people. Sometimes a member of the SVP is the only person a housebound person will talk to the whole week.”
For years the SVP has been befriending the lonely and house bound and knows how much it improves well-being; it is good to know the academic, scientific and healthcare communities agree and that they are beginning to quantify the benefits.
Last month the SVP was awarded a Big Society Award as the Prime Minister recognised the outstanding work of the society in befriending some of the neediest people in England and Wales for over 170 years.
For more information on the SVP see: www.svp.org.uk
“The biggest disease today,” said Mother Teresa, “is not leprosy or cancer or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody.”
It may have taken them a while but scientists have finally acknowledged that feelings of loneliness and isolation have serious health consequences such as disrupted sleep, raised blood pressure, lower immunity, increased depression, lower overall wellbeing and increased stress.