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Elderly women in Kent most at risk of getting long term chronic-illnesses

PUBLISHED: 07:00 20 September 2018

Elderly women have the highest risk of getting long-term chronic illnesses such as heart failure and diabetes due to loneliness and social isolation. Picutre: John Stillwell/PA

Elderly women have the highest risk of getting long-term chronic illnesses such as heart failure and diabetes due to loneliness and social isolation. Picutre: John Stillwell/PA

PA Archive/PA Images

Elderly women have the highest risk of getting long-term chronic illnesses such as heart failure and diabetes due to loneliness and social isolation.

New research by Kent Public Health Observatory has found around a third of socially isolated elderly residents have three or more long-term conditions -from cardiovascular disease to depression.

The data also indicates these people are putting an extra strain on the health service as they are more likely to be admitted to hospital, attend A&E or have contact with community health services.

Around 3,000 isolated people in Kent are estimated to cost the taxpayer up to £6,000 per person per year.

Head of health intelligence at KCC, Gerrard Abi-Aad, said: “We are not saying that these individuals have all these problems in their lives but by virtue and context with which they live, they have a higher probability of being attributed to this characteristic.

“What we have found in the last decade is that people are living longer and, because of changes to lifestyle habits, we are more likely to accumulate long-term disabled conditions.

“People in social isolation are more likely to use health services, but we are not saying this is necessarily wasteful, but what we are interested in is that these people, on average, use these services more intensely than their non-socially isolated counterparts in a commissioning perspective.

“This is a significant cost to the system.”

Mr Abi-Aad told councillors at the social isolation and loneliness select committee how not having close links to family and friends can also worsen health risks.

He said: “I’m married and I’ve got children and my family living around me.

“If they see me doing something wrong or see me drinking too much or whatever, they are more likely to tell me to exercise more or tell me to stop drinking.”

Cllr David Brazier (Con) claims society no longer believes the younger generation has a “responsibility” to look after their parents or neighbours.

He said: “This country puts personal ambition and convenience before our first responsibility of looking after one’s parents.

“As a society we neglect our older relations and they become more reliant on the state.

“There are many countries, even in Europe, where this does not happen.”

However Cllr Karen Constantine (Lab) said employers should be more “supportive” of people with elderly relatives and allow people to take time off work.

She added: “Often when there is a crisis, the elderly relative hasn’t mentioned this before and has come out of the blue as the elderly person has been quite private and proud about not wanting to impact on the younger generation.

“I think we need to be careful about making assumptions about how people manage these situations.”

To limit the effects of social isolation and loneliness, the county council has commissioned intergenerational befriending services and funded dementia drop-in cafés.

Elderly people can also attend day centres, where they can catch up with friends, have lunch or a cup of tea.

Those who have had a fall or a major health issue are invited to enablement services to regain skills, confidence and feel safer in their homes.

The council also reaches out to carers, including offers of short breaks away and connections to their peers through social networks.

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