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Staggering number of people are lonely in West Berks

Knock on a neighbour's door this Christmas

Andy Murrill

West Berkshire Health and Wellbeing Board


01635 886625

Staggering number of people are lonely in West Berks

FOR most people December is the busiest month of the year, but for some people it is also the loneliest.

While many people are juggling baking and baubles alongside gifts and good cheer, some members of our community find themselves more isolated than ever.

In fact, loneliness is not just making us sick, it is killing us.

Studies of older people and social isolation show that those without adequate social interaction are twice as likely to die

To put this into context, the increased mortality risk is comparable to that from smoking.

But shocking as this is, such studies overlook the loneliness epidemic among younger adults.

Quite alarmingly, The Mental Health Foundation found loneliness is actually a greater concern among young people than the elderly.

This is borne out in West Berkshire, where a staggering 32 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds and 11 per cent of over 65s say they are lonely, something quite alarming given that we have lots of clubs, social, activities and support groups.

What’s more is the shocking neighbourhood statistics.

It appears that 53 per cent of us may never have said hello to our neighbours.

Apart from the fact that they may turn out to be people who could become genuine friends, this is also removing one potential element of our support network – whether we are after someone to feed the cat while we are away, supply an emergency egg when we get caught short in the middle of cooking, share a really good ‘buy one, get one free deal’ or share a journey.

It takes so little to bridge the gap as it can start with a simple hello.

During the winter, the chance for those hellos may be less spontaneous as we all hide behind our closed curtains on a cold winter’s night, but perhaps that makes it even more important to take the first step and knock on a neighbour’s door.

When the snow falls, we seem to feel that we have permission to talk, share the challenge the weather presents and help each other out, but in reality we can do that at anytime.

With Christmas approaching, why not use that ‘excuse’ to say hello, see what your neighbour is doing at Christmas and, if you can’t get together for tea and Christmas cake on Christmas afternoon, then perhaps bake a cake together that can be shared with others the weekend before?

Sharing information about what you know happens in the community and seeing if you, or others you know, have shared interests can create connections that lead to a brighter future with stronger networks of support around each and every one of us.

Do let us know what happens.

For support if you, or someone you care for, feels isolated and lonely, try

West Berkshire Council’s Social Care information point (SCiP) scip/ provides information about activities/ lunch clubs and drop-ins that are available locally that can help people to feel less lonely. Search the ‘community support’ and ‘care at home’ categories to find specific groups.

Befriend West Berkshire is looking for befrienders. Call (01635) 49004 to speak to Simone Foster or email her at is a calendar of lots of local activities.

How about sharing a mince pie with a neighbour? For more information, try Coffee Companions (Berkshire
locations) link:

How about sharing a mince pie with a neighbour? For more information, try Coffee Companions (Berkshire
locations) link:

How about sharing a mince pie with a neighbour? For more information, try Coffee Companions (Berkshire
locations) link: location-search/berkshire

Or help out on Christmas day with

This column is brought to you on behalf of the West Berkshire Health and Wellbeing Board, which is responsible for improving the health and wellbeing of our population across the district, by developing improved and joined-up health and social care services.

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