Loneliness has always been a problem in the UK, however there is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem.
Isolation, financial insecurity and increased stress are making more people feel lonely, and, with loneliness shown to impact on mental and physical health, it is not a problem any of us can afford to ignore.
Last week, the British Red Cross published a report ‘Lonely and Left Behind: Tackling Loneliness at a Time of Crisis’, which provides insight into how people most affected by the pandemic are coping and suggests urgent actions for the Welsh, UK and other devolved governments.
- That too many people lack strong support networks. Thirty-nine per cent of UK adults say they haven’t had a meaningful conversation with someone in a fortnight and a third worry something will happen to them and no one will notice.
- That some people have never stopped shielding or isolating. Despite restrictions easing over the summer, prior to further local and national shorter lockdowns. some people have not felt comfortable leaving their homes and watching others resume their social lives has made these people feel ‘left behind’.
- People who are lonely feel less able to cope. There has been a sharp rise in the number of people who say they are too lonely to cope with the Covid-19 crisis since May. Two in five people say loneliness is having a negative impact on their mental health.
- People often don’t know how to help themselves and others. The pandemic and lockdown restrictions have had a significant impact on people’s strategies for managing loneliness and many find it too difficult to talk to others about their feelings.
- Further lockdowns and winter risk entrenching feelings of loneliness. People are concerned that more lockdowns will bring them back to ‘square one’ and are worried about their ability to cope.
The British Red Cross are therefore calling for Governments across the UK to launch a plan to tackle loneliness this winter, and I back these calls.
They are also calling for Governments to ensure that those most at risk of loneliness are able to access the mental health and emotional support they need to cope and recover from Covid-19, and for tackling loneliness to be built into Covid-19 recovery plans in the medium to longer term.
The importance of addressing loneliness and isolation cannot be underestimated, but it is not just a problem for governments and charities to tackle, we can all play a role in helping to combat loneliness in our neighbourhoods.
At this time of year, and particularly in light of the situation we find ourselves in, I would urge everyone to find some time in their day to contact those who live alone, whatever their age. Covid restrictions may prevent you from going to visit them in person, but a chat on the phone may be enough to brighten their day. You might be the only person they have spoken to in days or sadly even longer. Nobody deserves to feel lonely and isolated, let’s all do our bit.
- The British Red Cross offers a range of support for people experiencing loneliness and anyone looking to reach out can do so on the coronavirus support line on 0808 196 3651.