A million people in this country do not eat well. But they don't like junk food or follow unreliable diets.
Instead, they skip meals or rely on ready meals because they are lonely. They just can't stand cooking and then eat alone.
That's a million people over the age of 70, according to the Royal Voluntary Service survey.
Pauline was a widow and her son, who lived miles away, was busy with his young family, while her daughter had emigrated to Canada. Her good friends were dead or tied to the house. A stock image is used above [file photo]
This must be one of the most depressing statistics I have seen – not least because it reveals the isolation experienced by some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
I work in a clinic for eating disorders and patients with weight loss are the most common referrals. They usually have anorexia, but I also see older patients being referred because they have stopped eating.
Some will be depressed, but many have lost their appetite because meal after meal prepared and then eaten only reminds them of their predicament.
Men, women and friends have died, while sons and daughters may live far away. There is not even anyone to share a cup of tea with.
A million people in this country do not eat well. But they don't like junk food or follow unreliable diets. Instead, they skip meals or rely on ready meals because they are lonely [file photo]
Last month I reviewed an older woman – let's call her Pauline – who had lost nearly half her body weight in a few years.
When she saw her doctor about an unrelated complaint, he feared that her weight loss was due to cancer and referred her to a series of tests. Everything came back negative.
So Pauline was sent to a dietitian who told her to eat more and ensure that her meals were nutritious.
& # 39; What's the point, doctor? & # 39; She asked me. "They tell me to eat things like stews for dinner, but I can't handle preparing it and eating it alone.
It was the silence that was the worst, she said. "Meals should not be silent."
The only solution for loneliness is company and friendship, and I believe it is our responsibility to tackle the growing loneliness epidemic, especially among the elderly [file photo]
Pauline was a widow and her son, who lived miles away, was busy with his young family, while her daughter had emigrated to Canada. Her good friends were dead or tied to the house.
"When your world gets smaller and there is only you, food doesn't seem to be a priority," she said. Her dinner usually consisted of a piece of toast or crackers.
I wrote to Pauline's doctor that there was no evidence of an eating disorder. The diagnosis was "loneliness."
I have included a list of local lunch clubs and friendship schemes & I hope that Pauline has joined one of them.
Humans are gregarious beings and over the millennia, food – sharing available food – has evolved into a social event.
Meals brought people together, created links between individuals and offered opportunities to discuss problems.
Is it any wonder that so many elderly people become depressed when they lose this vital interaction with others?
The only solution to loneliness is companionship and friendship, and I believe it is our responsibility to tackle the growing loneliness epidemic, especially among the elderly.
Organizations such as the Royal Voluntary Service have drop-ins and lunch clubs and always need volunteers, so why not sign up if you have some free hours?
Or why not set up something similar yourself?
When I first moved to my apartment building, a neighbor called to tell me about the rota to cook for another resident who was home alone.
People had seen that he had a hard time and did something about it. I explained that I was not a great cook and refused.
"Oh don't worry, he's fine with takeaways," my neighbor said.
I'm glad she persisted. I saw the gentleman every month for three years until he died. He received a meal and I made a fascinating friend.
It is so easy to make a small difference. Let us all promise to do our bit for loneliness.
Only 30 minutes of walking a day can "neutralize" the risk of depression, even in people with family history, according to a Harvard study
Just a 30-minute walk a day can "neutralize" the risk of depression, even in people with a family history, according to a Harvard study.
We know that depression is partly genetic. Yet this research shows that, in the words of one of the scientists, & # 39; genes are not destiny & # 39 ;.
He means that although a person is at genetic risk, there are ways to reduce that risk.
This gives an incredible amount of power. The idea that we should support our genes and do nothing about their impact on our physical and mental well-being is deep, good, depressing.
Being human is more than a few DNA strands!
When it's best not to tackle trauma
Tottenham's Son Heung-min received a red card after a & # 39; reckless & # 39; tackle in which Andre Gomes sustained a horrible ankle injury during the 1-1 draw with Everton last weekend.
Son was in tears and it was reported that he was offered counseling. You think that's a good thing? I do not agree with it.
There is no suggestion that Son has a mental illness. He was involved in a disturbing event, yes. But this is part of life – and injuries are always possible if there is a lot at stake in the sports arena.
I am wary of this constant rush to counseling because it can & # 39; medicalize & # 39; that are completely natural.
Tottenham's Son Heung-min received a red card after a & # 39; reckless & # 39; tackle in which Andre Gomes sustained a horrible ankle injury during the 1-1 draw with Everton last weekend
It is normal to feel angry, worried or guilty after such an incident. And most of us have the skills and support networks to deal with it.
Unpleasant situations can sometimes cause something more serious, but it is relatively rare. Most of us can process their feelings without professional help.
And there is no clear evidence that counseling really makes a difference. It can do even more harm than good.
When the army introduced debriefing sessions after military action or traumatic incidents, the number of post-traumatic emergency syndrome and other psychological problems even increased.
Mental health deteriorated because talking about what had happened over and over again disrupted the brain's ability to handle events in its own time. The exercise has stopped.
It can be good to talk. . . but not always.
Children who are positively joyful
A group of parents has successfully campaigned to change official online NHS information about Down's syndrome to make it more positive and balanced.
The parents argued that existing guidance focused on an & # 39; endless list of problems & # 39 ;. It could not view people with Down syndrome as individuals.
I am afraid that some doctors are guilty of promoting this attitude. We can make life with a child with Down's syndrome seem inexorably gloomy.
So it is definitely time to focus on the great joy these children can bring to a family – not to mention incredible advances in dealing with the specific health problems they are susceptible to.
As a child I spent several summers on vacation with family friends. They had four children, one of whom had Down's syndrome.
A group of parents has successfully campaigned to change official online NHS information about Down's syndrome to make it more positive and balanced. A child with Down syndrome is pictured above in a stock image [file photo]
It never occurred to me that Tim was different or disabled. We all built sandcastles together, played in the sea, and stayed up late to tell ghost stories to each other.
When Tim died a few years ago after heart surgery, his sister called me: "I would give anything to get him back," she said.
Tim was loved and cherished by his family, he enriched their lives enormously – and he is very much missed. You have never read about this in medical textbooks.
In a letter to NHS staff, health secretary Matt Hancock explained a zero-tolerance approach to racism: if a patient asks to visit a "white doctor," he must be told that the answer is "No" .
"Your management must and will always support you."
I am pleased that Mr Hancock has taken a clear position. In my first year as a junior doctor I worked with a young doctor named Lewis, who was black.
A patient refused to be treated by him. The staff was shocked and Lewis was upset and ashamed.
In a letter to NHS staff, health secretary Matt Hancock set out a zero-tolerance approach to racism. I am pleased that Mr Hancock has taken a clear position
Days later, that patient had a cardiac arrest in the ward. The first doctor on the spot was Lewis, who started CPR procedures.
I saw Lewis do his utmost to save a racist person who had humiliated and abused him.
An hour later the patient sat up. He thanked the team and shook our hands – including Lewis's. And Lewis, the better man, said it had been a pleasure.
Dr. Max writes …
Play well at Wellcome Collection, London
This fascinating exhibition takes "playing" seriously. Why are we playing? What are the advantages?
Psychologists now appreciate that it is an important part of development, it helps social and cognitive functioning and provides insight into the young brain.
But it's not just for children – the show illustrates how playing can also be important for adults.
Admission is free, open until 8 March 2020; wellcomecollection.org
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