Recent results have revealed that Worcestershire has the second lowest rate of loneliness in England.
According to the Active Lives Survey from Sport England, just 4.7% of people in Herefordshire and Worcestershire report being lonely “often or always”, in comparison to a national average of 6.8%.
Lonely is a word that few people use about themselves, even though we all feel lonely at some point in our lives.
Research shows that loneliness is more than just a feeling, it affects all aspects of your health and can even contribute towards an early death.
People who are lonely tend to need more health care, more social care services and are more likely to go into a nursing home because they may not have a social network supporting them. All in all, loneliness is almost as deadly as smoking.
Dr Lisa McNally, Director of Public Health for Worcestershire County Council, said: “Thank you to everyone who makes Worcestershire a great place to live and work. This new data showing we are a county of connection is wonderful to read. We cannot be complacent though, tackling loneliness remains firmly on our agenda and is a golden thread throughout all our work. Loneliness really is everyone’s business and small acts of kindness go a long way.”
In Worcestershire, we seem to be pretty good at making people feel connected.
This isn’t by accident though. The county takes a real community-based approach to tackling loneliness.
The County Council’s Public Health team work closely together with District Councils, the NHS and voluntary sector partners too as part of Worcestershire’s Tackling Loneliness Partnership Group where the issue is directly discussed and addressed. By combining resources, local initiatives are built which bring people together in everything from exercise groups to art and music programmes.
Simon Trickett, Chief Executive for NHS Herefordshire and Worcestershire said: “I am really proud to see that the collective efforts of health and wellbeing organisations across Worcestershire have helped to keep people connected and report low rates of loneliness.
“Many organisations across Worcestershire worked together to provide opportunities for local people to enjoy activities and ensure they are inclusive. This was paramount during the challenging last few years with isolation bought about by the pandemic.
“Reducing loneliness is on ongoing priority for NHS Herefordshire and Worcestershire however we can all do our bit – a small effort on your behalf could make an incredible difference to someone else’s life.”
One person who actively helps others is Paul Barber from Worcester.
Despite being partially disabled due to breaking his back in 2003, Paul volunteers weekly to lead Health Walks. Inspired by his mother’s experiences of being alone after his dad died, he also volunteers with Age UK Herefordshire and Worcestershire’s befriending service, making calls for their companion line and visiting people for a chat. In addition, he regularly visits someone in Warndon through his work with the charity Blind Veterans.
Last year, Paul won the Positive Changes Award in Platform Housing Group’s Community Heroes Awards.
Paul said: “Volunteering is an important part of my life. I’ve been a Health Walks leader for just over four years. I get a lot of enjoyment out of it because I can see the members of our group like to be out and about and it helps with their wellbeing.
“I enjoy talking to people though my volunteering with Age UK Herefordshire and Worcestershire and Blind Veterans. I love getting together and hearing their stories.
“When I’m helping other people, I forget about my own aches and pains. I’ve enjoyed the four and half years I’ve been volunteering more than the 30 years I was working.”
Worcestershire has recently been cited as an example of best practice in local government circles when it comes to tackling social isolation, loneliness and developing communities.
One countywide initiative is Stay Connected. Organisations are encouraged to sign up and take some simple steps to bring people together and feel less alone. You can join Stay Connected whether you are commercial business, a public sector organisation, a volunteer group or social group. All groups are welcome! To find out more about Stay Connected go to the dedicated pages of the County Council website.
So if you see an organisation displaying the Stay Connected logo, remember that it’s a sign that they care.
If you are interested in helping others through volunteering, but don’t know where to start, take a look at the Volunteering pages of the County Council website for some inspiration.
If loneliness and isolation is having an impact on your quality of life, find out more about services which can help you at the dedicated Loneliness page on the County Council website.