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By GM Moving | 19 June 2024 | TAGS: GM Walking, older adults, "mental health"

Loneliness Awareness Week, held annually in the UK, shines a spotlight on the pervasive issue of loneliness and its detrimental effects on mental and physical health. Latest statistics reveal the alarming extent of the problem: over 9 million people in the UK often or always feel lonely. This issue cuts across all age groups, with around one in three people aged 16-24 and over half of those aged 75 and older experiencing significant levels of loneliness. Loneliness also disproportionately affects women, people with physical and mental disability, and people from a minority ethnic background.

The impact of loneliness on health is profound. Research indicates that chronic loneliness can increase the risk of premature death by 26%, comparable to the effects of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It also elevates the risk of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, and is linked to physical health issues including heart disease, stroke, and cognitive decline.

Loneliness Awareness Week encourages proactive measures to foster connection and support within communities. One highly effective strategy is joining a local walking group. Walking groups offer more than just physical exercise; they provide a social setting where individuals can build new friendships and engage in meaningful conversations. The simple act of walking together can create a sense of camaraderie and belonging, essential elements in combating loneliness.

Peter Hayward found that walking with people from the Lighthouse Project in Middleton helped alleviate a growing sense of loneliness following the loss of his wife. He speaks about the importance in getting outside and taking those crucial first steps in the video below.

Participating in community activities like walking groups not only helps alleviate feelings of isolation but also promotes overall well-being. Groups can offer a structured yet relaxed environment, making it easier for people to connect and support each other. By engaging in such activities, individuals can take significant steps towards improving their mental and physical health while fostering a more connected, supportive community.

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