Perhaps it’s a sign of our times. Families often don’t live close to each other these days and a lot of people can admit to not knowing their neighbours. Even though technology means it’s never been easier to keep in touch, social isolation is still a major issue and is something that can be felt more at Christmas which is supposed to be a time for family.
New research published by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) shows than 246,000 elderly people will be alone on Christmas Day, according to independent research. Of those, 40% have family in the UK.
That’s nearly a quarter of million people who will find themselves alone on Christmas Day and the statistics show that while many thousands of people will at least have company for Christmas Day, 370,000 people aged over 75 spend ‘zero hours’ with company the rest of the year.
The telephone survey was carried out by Survation between 16-21 December and more than 2000 people were interviewed as a part of it. Some of the pollsters are said to have been left in tears over some of the revelations made by some of the people surveyed with one 90-year-old lady asking if watching TV counted as spending time with people.
However it shouldn’t be presumed that everyone spending Christmas – or any other time of the year alone – is lonely. When details of the survey were given on Five Live a number of people contacted the show to state that they were happy with their own company and didn’t feel lonely. This doesn’t take away from the fact that many people will be lonely at Christmas as well as the rest of the year.
The CSJ says that there are an increasing number of people reaching retirement age and family breakdown has led to children becoming estranged from their elderly parents.
CSJ Executive Director Gavin Poole said:
“Today’s findings are heart-wrenching.”
“We know about the tragic impact of family breakdown on the youngest members of our society. But now we’re seeing the consequences for older people. For so many to spend Christmas day alone while their family celebrates elsewhere is a modern tragedy.”
This is not the only survey to highlight the problem of social isolation and loneliness. A survey by Community Care published early in 2011 showed that 42% of people admitted to feeling depressed because they felt alone and a survey published in October by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) showed that elderly people living in cities are more vulnerable to social isolation.