6 December 2016
As many as 400,000 people living with cancer in the UK will be lonely this Christmas, a new estimate by Macmillan Cancer Support shows.[i]
A poll conducted by YouGov for Macmillan Cancer Support of more than a thousand people living with cancer found that one in six (16%) said that Christmas or another festive event is one of the loneliest times of year, the same as the anniversary of the death of a loved one (17%)[ii]. One in six also said the same for the New Year period.
The charity says a range of factors can contribute to loneliness among people with cancer over the Christmas period, from those who are having to spend time in hospital, through to others not having the money to travel to visit relatives while out of work. Cancer treatment can also result in a loss of sense of taste and fatigue which can make it difficult for people to fully enjoy and take part in Christmas dinners and family gatherings. Bereaved relatives can also find the festive period particularly hard and may be in need of moral support, the charity says.
This December, at least 150,000 people in England are expected to be urgently referred by their GP for tests for suspected cancer, and more than 20,000 are expected to start their first treatment for cancer.[iii] Overall, there are currently 2.5 million people in the UK living with a cancer diagnosis.[iv]
The poll highlighted that younger people with cancer are more likely to experience yuletide loneliness over Christmas and New Year. People under the age of 65 were nearly twice as likely to find festive periods lonely compared to over 65s, while women (18%) were more likely than men (12%) to suffer from loneliness at these times of year, the research found[v].
The charity says the Macmillan Online Community, an online space where people affected by cancer can get peer support from each other around the clock, is already featuring discussions about how difficult the Christmas period can be for people living with cancer, as well as bereaved relatives.
Open 365 days a year, the Online Community is there to support anyone affected by cancer, with users active 24 hours a day. Over 87,000 users visited and interacted on the site last December, with over 35,000 visiting the site between 24th December 2015 and 1st January 2016, and a record number of users are expected over the festive break again this year.
Kiran Aldridge, 42, from London lost her mother Piari, 62, to endocrine cancer in 2014,
“Mum was such a fun and glamorous woman so her diagnosis in 2013 really shook me. She died on Christmas Eve two years ago and although I had my family around me, I felt utterly alone in my sadness. Losing someone at any time is hard, but when everyone else is getting ready to celebrate the festivities, knowing my mum isn’t there, has left me with a real sense of loneliness.
“Macmillan’s online community will again be my lifeline where I can connect with others who understand how lonely it feels.”
Lynda Thomas, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
“We normally think of Christmas and New Year as being a time when people come together, but this research shows that festive periods can be really difficult and lonely times for many people living with cancer.
“When the usual hustle and bustle of everyday life stops over Christmas and New Year it can cause many people with cancer to reflect on what is almost always a physically tough and emotionally draining experience, and with this may come a real feeling of loneliness for some.”
“While invaluable support is always available for people affected by cancer on Macmillan’s Online Community, as family, friends and neighbours we all have a part to play in making sure that no one face cancer alone this Christmas.”
Macmillan Cancer Support’s Online Community is there to help ensure that no one faces cancer alone this Christmas. For around the clock support from people who understand, visit community.macmillan.org.uk. #NotAloneAtChristmas
For further information, please contact:
Patrick Pringle, Senior Media & PR Officer, Macmillan Cancer Support
0207 840 4891 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Notes to Editors:
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. Whether it’s concerns about who you can talk to, planning for the extra costs or what to do about work, at Macmillan we understand how a cancer diagnosis can take over everything.
That’s why we’re here. We provide support that helps people take back control of their lives. But right now, we can’t reach everyone who needs us. We need your help to make sure that people affected by cancer get the support they need to face the toughest fight of their life. No one should face cancer alone, and with your support no one will.
To get involved, call 0300 1000 200 today. And please remember, we’re here for you too. If you’d like support, information or just to chat, call us free on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am–8pm) or visit macmillan.org.uk
[i] Estimate based on YouGov survey of 1,011 adults living in the UK with a previous cancer diagnosis. Fieldwork was undertaken between 10th and 17th December 2015. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of the living with cancer population. One in six people with cancer (16%) say Christmas or another festive event is one of the times of year that they feel most isolated or alone – almost the same proportion say the same for the New Year (17%) or the anniversary of a loved one’s death (17%). This proportion has been applied to the total number of people living with cancer in the UKiv to reach the estimate of nearly 400,000 people.
[iii] NHS England. Cancer waiting times. In December 2015, 146,808 people were seen under the ‘Two Week Wait From GP Urgent Referral to First Consultant Appointment’ waiting time target and 23,192 under the ‘One Month Wait from a Decision to Treat to a First Treatment for Cancer’ target. Our figures assume that the figures for December 2016 will be higher than the figures for December 2015 in line with the year-on-year increase in the number of cancer patients.
[iv] Maddams J, Utley M, Møller H. Projections of cancer prevalence in the United Kingdom, 2010-2040. Br J Cancer 2012; 107: 1195-1202. (Projections scenario 1). Macmillan analysis based on extrapolation of 2010 and 2020 projections that the number of people living with cancer will hit an estimated 2.5 million in 2015.
[v] YouGov survey of 1,011 adults with a previous cancer diagnosis. Fieldwork was undertaken between 10th and 17th December 2015. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of the living with cancer population. Those who are more likely to feel isolated or alone during Christmas or another festive event are:
- Younger people (22% of those aged between 18 and r 64 say it is one of the most lonely times of year compared with 12% of 65 and over.)
- Women (18% compared with 12% of men)