It doesn’t have to be lonely this Christmas

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Christmas is fast approaching and many of us are making plans to host our family and friends over the festive season, to travel home to spend it with loved ones, or perhaps escape the cold and damp British weather for sunnier climates.

With all the hustle and bustle that often surrounds Christmas, it is easy to forget that some people have no one to spend Christmas with.

According to National Association of Local Councils, loneliness is fast becoming recognised as one of society’s greatest challenges, a growing problem which not only reduces the quality of life for large numbers of residents, but also contains significant implications for health and care services.

To reiterate how loneliness can impact your health, living alone and having poor social connections are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness was also discovered as being worse for you than obesity.

Over 9 million people in the UK say they are always or often lonely, with two-thirds feeling uncomfortable admitting it.

Loneliness does not discriminate, and although it is often associated with older people, this is not always the case. Research has found that almost 10% of people aged 16 to 24 were ‘always or often’ lonely – 3 times higher than people aged 65 and over.

Medication alone does not cure loneliness. The health and social care services in the UK are already overburdened. However by working together at local levels, it is possible to relieve some of this pressure and help people who are feeling the effects of loneliness.

Through funding from The National Lottery, TCV is working with the VCSE sector across the UK, NHS England, Public Health Scotland, Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland, local healthcare services, commissioners, academics and charities to support them in developing their own social prescribing programme.

Social prescribing recognises that social, economic and environmental facts can have a detrimental effect on people’s health, and that medication alone is unlikely to provide a sustainable improvement.

TCV programmes such as our Green Gym are prescribed by GPs to their patients to encourage them to improve their health and wellbeing as part of social prescribing.

Social prescribing brings people together with different programmes like TCV’s Green Gym, art therapy, debt counselling, a combination of things that’s delivered in the community by community volunteering groups and other organisations which increases the resilience of people, makes them stronger.

It says to people actually you are at the centre of your condition; you are the best person to make yourself better, but we’ll help you do that.

Craig Lister, TCV Green Gym Managing Director.

There is so much more to volunteering to just altruism; it can also aid social cohesion and combat loneliness within our communities.

To find out more about social prescribing, we have been celebrating our work as part of The National Lottery’s 25th birthday celebrations. Or why not find out where your nearest Green Gym is and get involved.

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