Social isolation affects people of all ages, including children, and has significant impact on health and wellbeing, according to Public Health England (PHE). One million older people in the UK can go for a whole month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member, according to Age UK.

Healthwatch East Sussex wants to know about your views and experiences of social isolation and how this affects health and wellbeing. If you feel you are socially isolated, or you know someone else who is, please take a few moments to tell us about it. The information you provide will help us to prevent social isolation from growing even more across our county.

Age UK defines ‘isolation’ as separation from social or familial contact, community involvement, or access to services.

The quality and quantity of social relationships can affect people’s physical and mental health. Positive social relationships and networks can promote health for people at any age through providing individuals with a sense of belonging and identity. Relationships provide social support to cope with challenges such as pressures at school or work, or life changes such as becoming a parent, redundancy, or retirement.

Which groups are at higher risk of social isolation?

Several groups are at increased risk of social isolation, including new mothers, children and young people experiencing bullying, people with long-term conditions and disability, unemployed adults, older single men, carers and retired people.

Many of the risk factors associated with social isolation are more prevalent among socially disadvantaged groups and accumulate throughout life; for example, social isolation in childhood is associated with isolation in adolescence and adulthood.

We know that experiencing poor health, including conditions that result in a lack of mobility, or the loss of sight or hearing, can result in social isolation. Alongside health interventions, social activities such as lunch clubs, allotment groups and exercise classes can also make a significant contribution to health and wellbeing.

The PHE practice resource on reducing social isolation and our guidance to community-centred approaches provide information and guidance to support effective strategies to prevent and reduce social isolation.

As you enjoy spending time with friends and family this winter, why not take the opportunity to reach out to someone who might be feeling lonely in your community, such as an elderly neighbour or someone you know who lives alone?

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