A helpline for older people has seen an increase in suicidal ideation among those who had to “cocoon” during the pandemic, a new report has found.
Alone, the organisation which supports older people, collaborated with The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda) to publish a report examining loneliness and isolation among over-70s.
The report focuses on the impact of public health measures such as “cocooning” on the mental and physical health of older people who are struggling with loneliness.
During the pandemic, Alone saw a rise in callers reporting negative emotions, including suicidal ideation.
Loneliness was found to have a negative effect on mental health and was associated with depressive symptoms in older people.
Physical health was also negatively affected as a result of lockdown measures, with calls indicating that older people living with chronic illnesses were limited by strict cocooning measures, and many individuals were apprehensive about attending medical appointments in case they came into contact with a carrier of the virus.
The charity said that current measures such as social distancing and cocooning are increasing levels of loneliness and social isolation among many older people, which may have a negative effect on their physical and mental well-being.
New collaborative research published today from @tilda_tcd and @ALONE_IRELAND highlights increased loneliness, anxiety and isolation in the over-70s during the #Covid_19 pandemic. More: https://t.co/IUeLMzMrwM #researchMATTERS #YouAreNotAlone pic.twitter.com/OohcVQFcak— Trinity College Dublin (@tcddublin) July 14, 2020
Alone CEO Sean Moynihan said the arrival of Covid-19 in Ireland emphasised existing issues while further alienating some older people.
He said: “Loneliness and social isolation are two of the greatest health risks for older people today. Research shows that loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health and are worse for us than well-known risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity.
“We have seen a huge increase in loneliness among older people as a result of the isolation experienced while cocooning.”
Since March, Alone’s National Support Line has received in excess of 27,012 calls for support while its staff and volunteers have made more than 130,149 calls to older people who needed support, and provided more than 22,725 units of practical support, delivered from the support line, staff and volunteers.
Mr Moynihan said the charity set up a loneliness taskforce to ensure provisions are being put in place to safeguard older people.
He said: “It is important for members of the public to remember that loneliness can happen to anyone and can take a toll on both your physical and mental health. We hope that we can work towards breaking down this stigma and focus on the people behind the percentages.”