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1 in 4 North Yorkshire Cancer Patients Suffer Loneliness

Harry Baines 210214

7:08am 21st February 2014

Almost one in four (24%) of people living with cancer in North Yorkshire – an estimated  5,700 –  are suffering 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%) – affecting an estimated 1,200 lonely people with cancer in North Yorkshire
  •  Almost five times more likely to have not left the house for days (66% vs. 14%) - affecting an estimated 3,700 in North Yorkshire
  • Almost three times more likely to have problems sleeping (76% vs. 27%)  - affecting an estimated 4,300 in North Yorkshire

For many, their diet also suffers. Lonely cancer patients are

  • Five times more likely to skip meals (38% vs. 7%) - affecting an estimated 2,200 in North Yorkshire
  • Almost eight times more likely to eat a poor diet (45% vs. 6%) - affecting an estimated 2,500 in North Yorkshire

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.

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.

Harry Baines, 23, from York, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma for the second time in January this year.  For Harry, despite having friends and family to support him, he has sometimes struggled to talk to them about cancer.

He said: “I’m surrounded by supportive people and I take a lot of strength from that but I didn’t want to worry them. So, at times, I could feel quite isolated because I kept things to myself. It’s easier to just say ‘I’m fine’, rather than talk. My sleep was affected as I tend to go over things in my mind. That’s something that cancer has taught me – I need to be more open."

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 or find out about volunteering opportunities, visit

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