The Whistler – December 2013

Wintry Bandstand by Clare Harms
Wintry Bandstand by Clare Harms

The holiday season over December and January is traditionally the time when families get together. But there are those who are lonely and who feel especially lonely at this time of the year. Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, recently raised the issue of loneliness.

According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, there are 800,000 people in England who are chronically lonely. 46% of people aged 80 or over report feeling lonely some of the time or often. 5m people say television is their main form of company. Studies show that chronic loneliness wrecks one’s health: pushing up stress levels, increasing blood pressure, disrupting sleep, even bringing on dementia. Air pollution increases your chances of dying early by 5%; obesity by 20%. Excessive loneliness pushes up your odds of an early death by 45%. Hunt thinks that every lonely person has someone who could visit them and offer companionship.

Readers who have heard the story of 38 year-old Joyce Carol Vincent, who lay dead and undiscovered in her flat for three years from 2003, or seen Carol Morely’s film about her, ‘Dreams of a Life’, will know that it’s not just older people who suffer from loneliness. Morley’s 2011 drama-documentary, shows city living as a series of weak links, forgettable friendships and single people getting by in their single housing units. By the end of it, you not only understand how a person can disappear from view; you wonder how many others suffer the same fate.

Surveys by the Mental Health Foundation suggest that young people are more likely to feel lonely than older people. Britain has seen a big rise in people living alone, from 17% of all households in 1971 to 31% now. Is Brighton & Hove immune from these statistics? Not likely.

WHCA is holding a special early Quiz on New Year’s Eve, Tues 31 Dec at 7pm in West Hill Hall. It will be a warm and social occasion where everyone is welcome. Come for the Quiz – where fun is had and clues are given – and we’ll raise a glass or two with our neighbours, and leave time enough for people to go onto other New Year celebrations or just go home having met some new people.

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