'Loneliness is a feeling that the quantity and quality of our relationships are not as good as we would like them to be. This is different from being isolated or alone, which are more objective measures of how much time we spend with how many other people, or solitude, which can in fact be positive and restorative for wellbeing.'
Loneliness can be social, where we feel a lack of social connections, emotional, where we feel like we lack meaningful relationships to the extent that we don’t belong, and/or existential, where we might feel entirely separate from other people
It's totally normal for any of to experience the feeling of loneliness- for a multitude of reasons. Many of us feel lonely from time to time and these short-term feelings shouldn’t harm our mental health. However, the longer the pandemic goes on for, the more these feelings become long-term.
Long-term loneliness is associated with an increased risk of certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and increased stress. The impact of long-term loneliness on mental health can be very hard to manage. Increasingly, companies like ours who have always focused on this issue have been concerned with the number of people experiencing feelings of loneliness long term. In turn, this also leads us to worry that the loneliest have become even lonelier.
Sometimes, long term loneliness can be treated as one of those things that you don't truly understand until you've had first hand experience or seen the effects on someone you love. This can be the same with so many other conditions that affect our wellbeing. We often make assumptions about something we haven't experienced before, or don't fully understand.
For us, we feel that the pandemic has really opened up peoples eyes to the dangers of loneliness- as so many of us have felt the effects of the lockdown restrictions. There has also been a lot of media attention on care homes, and the care industry as a whole and how they've struggled, which again - we don't think people were really aware of. The situation seems to, in some ways, really paved a way for empathy when it comes to isolation and loneliness as all of us now have experienced what that feels like.
The Covid Social Survey used the UCLA 3-item loneliness scale, which asked people to answer on a 3 point scale from ‘hardly ever/never’ to ‘often’:
How often do you feel that you lack companionship?
How often do you feel left out?
How often do you feel isolated from others?
The way these questions are designed demonstrates the way In which loneliness affects our social, emotional and existential wellbeing.
According to ONS statistics, from 3 April to 3 May 2020, 5.0% of people said they feel lonely “often or always”, around 2.6 million people across Great Britain. Throughout this release we refer to this group as “chronically lonely”.
During the same period, 30.9% of those asked said their well-being had been affected through feeling lonely in the past seven days, around 7.4 million people across Great Britain. These are shocking, high numbers. It's also important for people to be aware of the risk factors with regards to adult loneliness which are: Being young (18-30), Living alone, Having low income, Being unemployed, Having a mental health condition.
Other characteristics carry a small increase in the risk of being lonely, both before and during the pandemic.
Low educational attainment
Living in urban areas.
We felt that loneliness was a hidden epidemic in 2018 but now some light is being shed on the true scale of the problem. We are making new connections week in week out so that we can join forces with like minded organisations to keep supporting people through this tough time.