Research has shown that lacking social connections is comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and has worse health outcomes than risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity.
These outcomes result in individuals making more frequent use of public services, with the socially isolated and lonely being almost twice as likely to visit a GP and over three times more likely to enter state funded residential care. Future Cities Catapult has written a “Social isolation and loneliness in the UK” report on the various uses of technology to address the conditions.
In addition to shedding light on the true impacts of social isolation and loneliness, research has also revealed the true extent of those affected. There is common misconception is that only older people suffer from these conditions, however it is becoming increasingly obvious that individuals can be affected at any point during the life-course, and that the conditions can be triggered by a range of individual, community or societal level factors.
For example, children can become socially isolated or lonely through bullying, while working-age adults may be affected due to a change in employment status or through formative experiences such as addiction. Similarly, all age groups may become socially isolated due to lack of transport or community infrastructure in their local area.
Perhaps most importantly, it has been discovered that the effects of social isolation and loneliness are compounded over time, meaning that a child that is isolated is more likely to remain isolated throughout their life and is therefore more likely to suffer from the negative health outcomes.
What is clear is that no-one wants to live a lonely and isolated life, and that early intervention is critical in minimising negative health outcomes and associated costs. Technology is seen as a key enabler in efforts to reduce social isolation and loneliness by enabling those affected to better maintain existing social connections and to create new ones.
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Powered by the Future Cities Catapult and the Digital Catapult, IoTUK is a programme of activities that seeks to advance the UK’s global leadership in the Internet of Things (IoT) and increase the adoption of high quality IoT technologies and services throughout businesses and the public sector. It is a national programme designed to accelerate the UK’s Internet of Things (IoT) capability, which was launched as part of the Government’s £32m investment in IoT.