Edinburgh one of loneliest places to live: How do we tackle this public health crisis?
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Loneliness is a public health crisis and requires a Covid-style community effort to tackle it, an MSP has claimed.
Edinburgh has been classed as one of the loneliest places to live in the UK. One piece of research found that as many as 33 per cent of Edinburgh citizens do not feel that they are involved or feel part of the community.
Lothian Toy MSP Miles Briggs said the pandemic had prompted people to get involved in helping other peopke in their community. "A lot of volunteering took place during the pandemic, such as food deliveries and a lot of that capacity got built quickly but it has now gone back to where it was.
"The pandemic showed that this can happen and in communities like Pilton, for example, there were a lot of charities doing a huge amount of work as a pubic emergency response. I'm not saying we need that, but I do think we need to see the same ambition for a solution to the issue of loneliness and isolation, owned by the community. The government can't fix this on its own - it can have a strategy and facilitate some funding, but we need to see community groups and organisations take this work forward.
"And it's not just old people who suffer from loneliness - there are a lot of lonely young people who are just sitting on their phones. We need to make loneliness everyone's business."
Mr Briggs recently hosted a roundtable discussion at the Scottish Parliament, attended by MSPs, as well as Age Scotland and other organisations and charities.
He said: "“From the roundtable it was clear that people are passionate about tackling loneliness in Scotland. Feeling lonely is a horrible feeling and I am optimistic that we can take forward actions that will prevent people in communities up and down the country from feeling lonely."
Adam Strachura, head of policy at Age Scotland, said research had shown loneliness was not getting any better since the end of the Covid lockdowns. "One in 10 people in Scotland are chronically lonely, " he said. "And Edinburgh has regularly been the loneliest place in Scotland."
Age Scotand surveyed older people across the country at end of second national lockdown in early 2021 and again in spring 2023, when all restrictions had been lifted. "There were the same levels of loneliness among older people in both surveys and mental health was getting worse, said Mr Strachura. "Six in 10 over-50s are experiencing loneliness in Scotland. The shift from 'sometimes lonely' to 'lonely most of the time' can be quite a quick transition and once you're there it's quite hard to leave."
He said loneliness needed to be on everyone's agenda, including, for example transport bosses where cuts in bus services might increase isolation. "Loneliness is a public health crisis - and we have to ask to what degree can we have preventive measures to keep people connected? Is this on everyone's agenda in government so that when they're making policy there is a 'loneliness test': by doing this, is it going to make more people more lonely and cost more money in the long run?"