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Loneliness: a silent epidemic

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Older people often articulate that they are both lonely and isolated. These concepts and feelings are relevant to the role of the community nurse whose case load is often made up of a high proportion of older people.

Loneliness and isolation are becoming issues for both individuals and organisations as the UK population ages. With loneliness known to contribute to a reduction in health and well-being and a reliance on health services, community nurses could help to improve the quality of life for this group of patients.

Just raising the subject of loneliness with a client could be the start to improving wellbeing. By having a greater understanding and heightened awareness of loneliness among older people, community nurses may help to alleviate this common problem.


Loneliness has been described as a modern epidemic.1 Peplau and Perlman describe loneliness as 'the unpleasant experience that occurs when a person's network of social relationships is deficient in some important way, either quantitatively or qualitatively'.2

Loneliness and isolation are often linked, but are different concepts. Cattan et al also define social isolation in terms of networks and integration into a social world.3 One can be socially integrated and surrounded by others and can still feel lonely.4

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