Health authorities are now seeing loneliness as much more than an individual condition. They are now flagging it as a serious public health problem.
Vic Health quoted Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Brigham Young University in Utah, USA, whose research found that loneliness can be associated with poorer cardiovascular health and, in old age, a faster rate of cognitive decline and dementia.
“There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators,” Holt-Lunstad told a conference last year, drawing on data from two studies.
The first found greater social connection conferred a 50 per cent reduced risk of early death.
The second examined 70 studies and concluded that social isolation, loneliness or living alone posed risks for premature death that were at least equal to obesity, smoking (less than 15 cigarettes a day) and air pollution.
Unfortunately the problem of loneliness is exacerbated for those over 55s.
However a New Zealand woman and her Australian son have started a website to address the problem.
Carol Mahoney, 69 and Shaun Mahoney, 47 launched ChirpyPlus.com.au in Australia in early November, a month after launching ChirpyPlus in NZ.
They said that “social media is an increasingly popular pastime on the internet, but it doesn’t solve the issue that actually we like to meet up in person and for lots of people that’s an intimidating option.
“Virtually all nations are talking about the cost of loneliness and its effect on society, when really what most people are keen on is social interaction, but they don’t know how to reach out.
“At Chirpy, we want to help this group of over 55s online find people who are local to where they are, so they can then meet up in person and make the connections that keep us all healthy – and they can arrange a coffee catchup in just one click”, Carol said.
Carol has been head of IT in several large corporations and this is her third tech start up with her son.
Chirpy is a combination of Facebook, Meetup, Gumtree, Seek and Linkedin, all in the one location, just for over 55s, according to Shaun Mahoney.
“Our long-term goal for ChirpyPlus is to help people make new friends, find local fun activities, connect with healthcare professionals in their local area, save money with our secret deals and make money with our classifieds,” he said.
During November Chirpy is offering free lifetime memberships.
From December you will need to pay a subscription of $5 per month.