Historically, social isolation has been considered an issue that is faced predominantly by the elderly; there is, however, a growing body of literature which identifies it as a problem which touches a much broader range of society, starting in childhood, through the working-age period up to and including old-age. This is reflected in the Marmot Review report. Social isolation has a negative impact on quality of life and life expectancy in a number of ways, ranging from increased risk of heart disease and stroke to increased risk of the development of mental health issues; furthermore, it is associated with significant increases in public health spending.
It is, therefore, unsurprising that tackling this problem has become a key priority for a number of local authorities and charities, including Buckinghamshire County Council. Ongoing work at the council recognises this, and seeks to develop a shared approach to prevention when tackling issues around health and well-being.
The aim of this Data Science Fellowship, tying in with these efforts, was to develop a methodology for modelling all-age social isolation across Buckinghamshire, critically appraising the existing research and identifying the required datasets. Breaking this down, the project aims were :
- Undertake a substantive literature review which would allow Buckinghamshire County Council to establish a set of academically grounded definitions on social isolation, as well as providing an understanding of the presently existing work in the field.
- Collate data sources from around the council and beyond with a view to providing a central point of inquiry for those interested in tackling social isolation.
- Develop a robust methodology for mapping and modelling all-age social isolation across Buckinghamshire.