Scale of loneliness Loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health: research shows that lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. They are worse for us than well-known risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity. Loneliness increases the likelihood of mortality by 26%. (Campaign to End Loneliness) Finding ways to prevent and alleviate loneliness and social isolation are vital. They enable older people to remain as independent and healthy as possible and can change people’s lives. Research from Age UK and the Campaign to End Loneliness estimates that one in five people older people spend the day alone. In Hertfordshire more than 200,000 people are aged over 65 (2017 data). This means that over 40,000 older people could be spending today alone. This will rise dramatically to 52,000 by 2041, when the county's over-65 age group population will have reached more than 314,000. In the last decade the number of people aged over 90 in Hertfordshire has increased by 64%. Facts & Figures According to Age UK, more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member. Half a million people over the age of 60 usually spend each day alone, with no interaction with others, and nearly half a million more commonly do not see or speak to anyone for five or six days a week, a poll suggests. (Age UK) The number of over-50s experiencing loneliness is set to reach two million by 2025/6. This compares to around 1.4 million in 2016/7 – a 49% increase in 10 years (Age UK 2018, All The Lonely People) 49% of older people (equivalent to over 5 million individuals) say the television or pets are their main form of company (Age UK, 2015) "A higher percentage of women than men report feeling lonely some of the time or often" 63% of adults aged 52 or over who have been widowed, and 51% of the same group who are separated or divorced report, feeling lonely some of the time or often (Beaumont, 2013) In the winter period of 2017/18 there were an estimated 50,100 Excess Winter Deaths (EWD) in England and Wales (ONS, 2018). Nearly 46,000 (92%) of these EWDs were among people aged 65 and over (equating to 379 older people a day) (Age UK, 2018). A higher percentage of women than men report feeling lonely some of the time or often. (Beaumont, 2013) Almost three-quarters of older people in the UK are lonely and more than half of those have never spoken to anyone about how they feel, according to a survey carried out for the Jo Cox commission on loneliness. The poll by Gransnet, the over-50s social networking site, also found that about seven in 10 (71%) respondents – average age 63 – said their close friends and family would be surprised or astonished to hear that they felt lonely. GPs say that one in ten people they see have attended the surgery mainly because they are lonely (Campaign to End Loneliness 2017).