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Loneliness in the UK

Loneliness is a condition that occurs when someone spends extended time without socially interacting with others. A lonely person is detached and yearns for social interaction. The condition may be the result of several factors such as isolation, bereavement, illness, retirement or just being too shy. It can affect anyone at any age. However, studies show that the youth and the elderly are more likely to be lonely.

In the UK

A study released in June 2014 concluded that Britain was the capital of loneliness in Europe. This means that a large percent of the population don’t know their neighbours well or are less likely to have strong friendship bonds. In the whole of Europe, Britain ranked 26th out of 28 countries under survey. A large percentage of the population said that they didn’t have someone they could rely on in times of crisis.

Loneliness in the elderly

The study focused more on the elderly. The findings reported that over 51% of people over 75 live alone. Well over 4 million said that their main company was their TV set. A large portion of the elderly leave their houses less than once per week.

Loneliness in young adults

Although a lot of focus is placed on loneliness in the elderly, a research conducted by the Mental Health Foundation discovered that loneliness among young adults might be as bad as it is in the elderly. The study found that young adults between 18 and 34 years are more likely to feel lonely compared to the elderly. For example, the study found that 67% of the young adults interviewed often or sometimes felt lonely. This is compared to 35% of people over 55 years that were interviewed.

Primary causes of loneliness

Loneliness can stem from a number of factors which include the following.

Isolation from society is the main reason people become lonely. Not being able to socially interact with friends and family for extended periods can weigh down on someone’s emotions. Isolation can result from bereavement or simply having to live alone.

Shyness is another reason many people are lonely. Many people find it hard to start and maintain a face to face conversation. It becomes hard to express yourself verbally. Loneliness can develop even if the individual is sitting around a group of familiar people.

Lack of someone to regularly communicate with can lead to loneliness. Loss of a partner can cause loneliness. The same can be said of lacking a friend you can rely on and communicate with frequently.

Dangers of loneliness

A study conducted on loneliness showed that quality of life can be negatively affected by loneliness. It compared the health risks of being lonely to smoking 15 cigarettes per day. Some of the common health effects of loneliness include depression and its associated health conditions.

Tackling loneliness in the UK

A number of organisations have been set up to help eradicate loneliness among the elderly. These help to encourage the elderly to socialise and participate more in the community. However, there are still a large number of lonely people out there. Here are some tips to help end loneliness at the individual level.

First, reach out to family. Travel if necessary and connect with your children and grandchildren. If you cannot travel, invite them over at your place every once in a while. You could also make good use of technology to keep in touch.

Second, try to start a conversation. Smile at others and simply talk. A good way to start a conversation is to ask someone how they are.

Third, reach out. Unless you inform others about your loneliness, it’s unlikely that they will notice it.