Loneliness is a growing problem in modern day life. Even before the lockdowns and social distancing that were brought on by the pandemic, around 5% of adults in the UK reported feeling lonely. And ONS data shows that 3.7 million people reported ‘chronic loneliness’ in 2021 following a year of COVID restrictions.
Of course, just because you may be alone doesn’t mean you are automatically lonely. In fact, some people prefer their own company. But for others, social isolation, not having anybody to talk to and a lack of emotional support can cause sadness, affect wellbeing, and even cause depression.
This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is all about loneliness and its impact on mental health.
Loneliness can also cause anxiety, which can make the problem bigger. The more anxious we feel in social situations the more likely we are to avoid them, which only increases isolation and feelings of loneliness.
According to researchers from King’s College London, people with mental health conditions are disproportionately affected by loneliness, with one in five patients diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder reporting feelings of loneliness.
According to the Campaign to end loneliness, the group most likely to report feeling lonely are over the age of 65 with around 10% saying they feel lonely ‘all or most of the time’. In particular, people who had been widowed or had long-term illness or disability reported feeling lonely.
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What support is available?
How can we better support people whose mental health has been impacted by loneliness? What are the other impacts to health? Has the social isolation of the pandemic created long-term problems for young people and what solutions can we find for the 1 in 4 of us who are impacted by mental illness each year?
The Campaign to end loneliness have some helpful advice and resources listed on their website.
The Mix are a UK based charity that offers free, confidential support for young people either online, via e-mail or over the phone.
Reengage is a charity providing events, activities and befriending services for older people nationwide.
Rain on me is a peer support group for young people who need someone to talk to about their daily struggles.
And finally, My Black Dog is a peer support network for anyone experiencing depression.