20 February 2014
Macmillan CEO warns of looming loneliness epidemic with the number of people diagnosed with cancer set to double by 2030
More than one in five (22%) people living with cancer in the UK – an estimated 400,000 people – suffer with loneliness as a result of their cancer, rendering many housebound and unable to feed themselves properly, according to Macmillan Cancer Support1.
New research conducted by Ipsos MORI reveals - for the first time ever - the detrimental impact of being lonely on the lives of people living with cancer. It compares the experiences of cancer patients who say they feel lonely since their diagnosis (or more lonely than they did before) with those who aren’t – and the differences are stark. Lonely cancer patients are:
• three times more likely to drink more alcohol than they usually do (22% vs. 7%);
• almost five times more likely to have not left the house for days (66% vs. 14%);
• and almost three times more likely to have problems sleeping (76% vs. 27%).
For many, their diet also suffers at a time when they need to be as strong and healthy as possible. However, lonely cancer patients are five times more likely to skip meals (38% vs. 7%) and almost eight times more likely to eat a poor diet (45% vs. 6%).
Whilst the reasons for not eating properly include lack of appetite, having no food in the house and being too weak to cook, 13% of lonely cancer patients who have skipped meals say it is because they cannot afford to buy enough food.
Clare Redgrove, 49, from Kent, who was diagnosed with endometrial cancer in 2010, says:
'Being diagnosed with cancer has been a very lonely experience. I went from being a busy person running my own business to living on benefits. As I live alone, there were days when I’d find it hard to find the energy to feed myself let alone get out of my house. I feel under tremendous stress, my sleep has suffered, and it all seems even worse now that my treatment is over.'
Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
'Loneliness is blighting the lives of hundreds of thousands of cancer patients in the UK. It’s hard enough for people being hit with the devastating news that they have cancer, without having to suffer the additional effects that being lonely brings. It’s heartbreaking to think of people struggling to eat or leave the house because they have been abandoned and left to deal with cancer alone.
'This is a growing problem which is only set to get worse as the number of people diagnosed with cancer doubles from two to four million in the next 20 years. Macmillan provides a range of services – including a Support Line and an online community – that are a lifeline to people affected by cancer. But we simply can’t help everyone who needs us now, let alone those who will need us in the future so we need more public donations and support.
'We also urgently need the NHS, policy makers and local authorities to wake up to this looming loneliness epidemic and work with us to provide these vital services to ensure no one faces cancer alone.'
People with cancer who are most likely to feel lonely include those with cancer that is advanced or has spread or relapsed, those living alone, and those who have made a change to their working life.
For cancer support every step of the way call Macmillan on 0808 808 00 00 or visit our online community. To make a donation, visit macmillan.org.uk.
For further information, please contact:
Rebecca Openshaw, Media & PR Officer (Services & Influencing), Macmillan Cancer Support
020 7840 4699 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Notes to Editors:
1 Macmillan Cancer Support and Ipsos MORI research into isolation and loneliness amongst people affected by cancer.
• Research methodology:
o Online survey of 1,065 UK adults who have ever been diagnosed with cancer. Fieldwork took place between 12 and 30 September 2013. 1,000 interviews were carried out using Ipsos MORI’s Online Access Panel, with an additional 65 sourced from Macmillan’s contacts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Survey data has been weighted by gender, age and nation using 2008 cancer prevalence estimates.
o 15 telephone and 5 face-to-face depth interviews with people living with cancer, to explore their experiences in more detail.
• The research found that 22% of people living with cancer (238 out of the 1,065 survey sample) have been lonely since their cancer diagnosis, or more lonely than they were before. Research findings amongst those who are lonely are therefore based on 238 people. The data on people with advanced cancer who feel lonely are based on 43 people.
• The estimate of 400,000 comes from applying the proportion of people who are lonely since their diagnosis (or more lonely than they were before) to UK cancer prevalence estimates. Prevalence data sourced from: Maddams J, Utley M, Møller H. Projections of cancer prevalence in the United Kingdom, 2010-2040. Br J Cancer 2012; 107: 1195-1202. (Scenario 1).
About Macmillan Cancer Support
When you have cancer, you don’t just worry about what will happen to your body, you worry about what will happen to your life. At Macmillan, we know how a cancer diagnosis can affect everything and we’re here to support you through.
From help with money worries and advice about work, to someone who’ll listen if you just want to talk, we’ll be there. We are millions of supporters, professionals, volunteers, campaigners and people affected by cancer. Together we make sure there’s always someone here for you, to give you the support, energy and inspiration you need to help you feel like yourself again. We are all Macmillan.
No one should face cancer alone. For information or support, call us free on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am–8pm) or visit macmillan.org.uk. To run, bake, donate, volunteer or speak up for people affected by cancer, please call 0300 1000 200 or visit macmillan.org.uk/getinvolved