The research findings suggest that loneliness and social isolation alone do not create the conditions for increased service use.
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Perceptions of loneliness and social isolation for the service user can be intensified by inconsistency in accessing services. The inconsistency in accessing services is in part due to an inconsistency in their appropriateness. This is particularly pertinent for those who are from already stigmatised groups.
Loneliness may begin in childhood. It can result from social inequalities that contribute to being socially isolated, bullied or victimized at school, or not having a supportive friendship network.
LGBTQ+ people are less likely to access services because professionals are perceived to lack understanding about the complexity of their lives.
Single and new parents had a higher incidence of accessing their GP for support and referrals to mental health services. This was a result of post-natal depression, sleepless nights, stress, mental frustration and distress.
Parents known to social services were less likely to access services because of stigma. However, they also felt services were not appropriate to meet their complex social needs. Instead services tended to medicalise them and focus on treatment.
Carers whose lives had transitioned into a caring role often failed to recognise their changed status. This made them unaware of benefits and grants to which they may be entitled.
Refugees and asylum seekers distrusted services. This distrust usually came from their interactions with officials throughout the resettlement process. Poor English language skills impacted accessing public services. Refugees and asylum seekers tend only to use services when in crisis.
Issues included cuts in spending on public services; lack of public transport and particularly on-demand/responsive transport. For example, reductions in voluntary transport schemes meant older people were prevented from accessing wider services to increase social interaction.
Services were often delivered in a way that reduced disabled people’s access to them. There was also unnecessary duplication of some services or a complete absence, leading to a lack of joined up care.
Poverty, housing and changes to service delivery were indicated as linked with higher levels of loneliness and isolation.
- Poverty: the closure of day-centres means that there were fewer affordable places to hold meetings and activities. This could result in more social isolation and loneliness.
- Housing: it was originally thought to be an issue exclusively for older people. However, it was also an area of need for care leavers, disabled people, refugees and asylum seekers. For all these vulnerable groups, housing was frequently cited as not being fit for purpose.
Impact of loneliness and social isolation on health and well-being and whether people who experience loneliness/social isolation have higher use of public services
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Impact of loneliness and social isolation on health and well-being and whether people who experience loneliness/social isolation have higher use of public services: summary
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