Proviso – I’m not lonely. However, in England, almost 4 million people feel lonely. They could fill Wembley Stadium 44 times.
We live in a world where we are connected with a device that fits in the palm of our hand, we’re a phone call away or a message from any corner of the planet…but at the same time did you know that this ability to connect to more people in more places is still not disconnecting loneliness from many people’s lives?
Forgive the axymoron, but it seems that the more we’re connected, the more disconnected we feel. On Valentine’s Day in 2018, the BBC launched the Loneliness Experiment – a total of 55,000 people from around the world completed the survey. The results found that 40% of 16 to 24-year olds said that felt lonely often.
The BBC does state that because this was an online survey, it may have deterred older people, who are usually the ones linked to feeling lonely, however a survey for the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also conducted a study which highlighted that in 2016 to 2017, the same age group (16 to 24-year olds) reported feeling lonely more often than those in older age groups.
The same study said that there were 5% of adults – almost four million people – in England who reported feeling lonely ‘often’ or ‘always.’ The second group with the highest percentage was the elderly. To put this into perspective, you could fill Wembley Stadium nearly 44 times with people who feel lonely in the UK.
The rest of the ONS study concluded the common beliefs about loneliness, the people who said they felt lonely more often were single or widowed people, people with poor health, people who didn’t feel they belonged to their neighbourhood and those who had little trust in others in their local area. One of the profiles of the people who are at particular risk from loneliness were identified as younger renters with little trust and sense of belonging to their area.
But why are young people feeling so lonely? Evidence that young people are now having deep difficulty in making friends comes at a time when social media appear to have had major impact on the lives and behaviour of teenagers.
According to an article published in the Daily Mail newspaper, a new analysis of the rise of loneliness throughout the population estimated that around 13% of the UK population have no close friends. It also found that youngsters in their late teens and early 20s are now three times more likely than people of retirement age to spend most of their time alone and isolated. Social Media is a big factor in why young people feel this isolation. Some experts believe that this is due to the way we build relationship skills.
In the same article, counsellor Barbara Bloomfield said, ‘Social media is a great way for keeping in touch with friends, but it shouldn’t be used as a replacement for face to face contact. In the counselling room, young people often tell me of the friends they have made on social media, but equally they can be devestated by the betrayals that can occur such as when an unwanted image is shared. There’s so much heartache going on.’ She added: ‘It can feel isolating to watch friends having fun and posting selfies without you and the temptation to compare your own life to the perfectly curated life that friends portray online is huge.’
Older people are more commonly seen as lonely, as mentioned above, especially those with no family or the widowed. However, this is proving to be more and more of a stigma rather than a fact because of the rising amount of young people experiencing loneliness.
On the elderly however, a report on ITV news said that 200,000 older people have no regular social contact. A woman interviewed, known only as Janet, admitted that she sometimes goes to the supermarket to have some sort of interaction with people, otherwise she can go for days without speaking to anybody. The news piece also highlights that loneliness can be as bad ofr health as smoking.
Loneliness is becoming such a problem that a Minister for loneliness was appointed by the Government in June last year. This ministry, which was proposed by murdered MP Jo Cox, will help tackle the stigma of feeling alone. The very first one is called ‘Let’s Talk Loneliness’. The campaign hopes to create a culture in which people feel comfortable to talk about feeling alone and in which recognising feelings of loneliness in ourselves and others becomes second nature.
5 FACTS ABOUT LONELINESS IN THE UK
40% of 16 – 24-year olds said that they feel lonely often
200,000 older people have no regular social contact
75% of people with loneliness avoid reaching out to seek help, as they don’t want to burden others
Loneliness is becoming such a problem that a Minister for Loneliness was appointed by the Government
Loneliness is as bad for the health as smoking
5 THINGS PEOPLE SAY
Having nobody to talk to
Feeling disconnected from the world
Feeling left out
Not feeling understood
Loneliness is not something you should go through alone.
TALK TO US!