New data released by charity Versus Arthritis reveals thousands of young people with arthritis face risk of isolation and loneliness during the festive season
Isolation affects people with arthritis of all ages, but the latest research by Versus Arthritis in their Defying Arthritis at Every Age report reveals that nearly three quarters (73%) of 16 to 34-year-olds with arthritis avoid making social plans completely due to their condition. This is compared to an average of 47% across those with arthritis of all ages.
75% of young people with arthritis will cancel events with friends and family because of the pain and fatigue they experience, compared to 52% across all ages.
Affecting 10 million people in the UK (roughly one in six), half of those report experiencing pain every day. The condition can fluctuate from one day to the next, meaning that many people find it difficult to make or uphold social plans with loved ones.
Many also report a lack of public understanding about its pervasive impact on all parts of life, stopping them from spending time with loved ones, being able to work or even do the simplest movements without pain. This is only made worse by the common misconception that arthritis only affects older people, and so, young people seem particularly vulnerable to the impact.
For people with arthritis of all ages, the feeling of ‘being a burden’ puts them at risk of developing mental health issues, but particularly those aged 16 to 34.
Key findings in the report include:
- 56% have struggled with low self-confidence because of their arthritis
- 73% of young people feel lonely because of their arthritis, while 42% feel isolated on a regular basis
- 49% have experienced mental health problems, including depression and anxiety
The research also found that young people were the least likely to talk openly about their arthritis, with 52% feeling embarrassed or ashamed of their condition, compared to just 27% across all ages. A similar number (53%) reporting hiding their condition from friends, family or colleagues, compared to 43% overall.
CEO of Versus Arthritis, Liam O’Toole said: “This month many people are looking forward to parties and getting together with loved ones, but chances are, you or someone you know will be feeling isolated because of arthritis.
“Arthritis steals your independence and spontaneity - the unpredictability and pain of arthritis mean many people living with it don’t make social plans at all, while others feel embarrassed or hide their condition, even from friends and family.
“This isn’t acceptable and it doesn’t have to be this way. Whether it’s organising a work Christmas party or simply arranging a night out with friends, by having an open conversation and with a few simple considerations, we can all push back against arthritis and ensure no one is left excluded and feeling alone this Christmas.”
Carrie was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at 18.
“I’ve felt lonely and isolated in past Christmas seasons when I couldn’t participate as much as I would have liked. I love Christmas and the build-up throughout December, but this also coincides with one of the worst times of year for me in terms of symptoms, due to weather” she said.
“Celebrations with family, friends and colleagues soon mount up and suddenly you are left with little time to rest and take care of yourself. Friends and family need to remember many people with arthritis find it hard to ask for help or confide how they are truly feeling, so if you make the first move and how your loved one is doing, it will truly be appreciated and make it easier for them to be honest.”
The charity offers a free and confidential helpline service, runs local support groups across the country and has practical information and advice on its website. Visit Versus Arthritis for more information and to find out more about the Defying Arthritis at Every Age report.
If you are feeling lonely, you may benefit from speaking to a professional. Simply enter your location in the box below to find a counsellor near you.