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Four in 10 adults feeling lonelier since start of lockdown – UK report

By Jemma Crew
Four in 10 people feel lonelier since the coronavirus lockdown began, while a third say they have not had a meaningful conversation in the last week, a UK report has found.

More than a quarter of UK adults (28%) worry that no-one would notice if something happened to them, and a third (33%) fear their loneliness will get worse, the British Red Cross (BRC) said.

Overall, 41% of adults polled for the charity reported feeling lonelier since lockdown. Before the Covid-19 crisis, one in five people said they were often or always lonely.

A third (33%) said they had not had a meaningful conversation in the last week, with 37% describing their neighbours as strangers.

Some 2,000 UK adults were polled between May 12 and 14, along with a further sample of 203 black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) respondents.

The BRC believes a lack of meaningful contact, a reduction of informal and formal support, and increased anxiety have exacerbated loneliness during the crisis.

Its report, Life After Lockdown: Tackling Loneliness Among The Left Behind, found that 31% of adults feel they have no-one to turn to.

For many, their loneliness is accompanied by other vulnerabilities – a lower income, long-term health conditions, mental health issues, or being a refugee or asylum-seeker, the report found.

Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people, parents, young people, and those with limited access to digital technology and the internet are all more likely to experience loneliness.

More than half of people from BAME backgrounds (52%) feel their neighbours are strangers, compared with 37% of the population as a whole.

The organisation is calling for secure and sustained funding to support those who are loneliest and to address the root causes.

That includes building on the NHS social prescribing scheme which puts people in touch with groups and activities that help them become more connected.

It has been supporting people through the crisis with its helpline, its Connecting Communities social prescribing scheme, and by distributing wellbeing packages that include physical exercises, games, colouring-in books, recipes and houseplants.

It will receive £610,000 from a £5 million government fund to tackle loneliness to support young people, BAME communities, refugees, those with limited access to digital technology, and people with health issues.

BRC executive director Zoë Abrams said: “For many, life before lockdown was lonely already. We want to make sure no-one is left behind as restrictions ease.

“The better connected we are, the more resilient we are – especially during emergencies. It’s important to recognise that, even as it becomes easier for people to connect again, some will still find this a real challenge to do.

“We’re talking about some very vulnerable people – they might have long-term health conditions, mental health issues, difficulty paying the bills.

“We must all work together to make sure the understanding, will and funding is there to help the most isolated and tackle the root causes of loneliness itself.”

One person, who uses the BRC’s Connecting Communities scheme, said: “I’m feeling even more isolated than I did before, and just trying to hold everything together.

“I’m on quite a bit of medication anyway. Feeling totally lonely and totally vulnerable, and worried about how long I can cope.

“All the support I’ve had for anxiety, panic attacks and agoraphobia has been put on hold.”

Linda Bray, a community connector for the BRC in Southampton, has been supporting 16 vulnerable individuals during lockdown.

She said: “The majority of them would be going out into the community, but can’t now.

“Sometimes I’m the only person they speak to all week.”

She added: “I go to bed and am thinking ‘Who have I missed? What can we do for them?’”

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