4 in 10 adults in the UK are battling with loneliness in lockdown
A study from the British Red Cross revealed that 41% of adults are suffering with increased loneliness since lockdown began. What does this mean for those living in Lancashire?
Their study also revealed that 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.
In the poll, that questioned 2,000 UK adults, it also discovered that a third of people said they had not had a meaningful conversation in the last week.
Gillian Beeley of Together Lancashire, an organisation that works to develop abundant life in Lancashire communities, said although it is mainly older members of society that struggle with loneliness, younger people can feel it too.
"I know how difficult it has been for many to cope with isolation. Loneliness has been more intense as they could not have that physical contact with friends and family," she said.
"Keeping in touch online goes so far - nothing replaces actually meeting with people. There has been a tremendous response by volunteers delivering food, shopping or prescriptions off to neighbours which has helped connect people together. Church folk have also had virtual coffee mornings, and have done ring arounds – so there have been opportunities to chat.
"I think this is really complex. I do think loneliness will have been experienced by far more people than ‘normal’ – from children missing friends to those furloughed missing the social connection with work colleagues, those who have been made redundant, and those shielding/self isolating. The Local Authority Hubs are there to make sure that no-one goes hungry and provide other support, and if people need help, they will be referred to an appropriate organisation."
In Lancashire, figures haven't been updated since 2016, but showed that the county had a minimum of 35,000 people who were chronically socially isolated, many of which were over 70.
In the current circumstances with the Covid-19 pandemic, all members of society have reported an increase in feelings of loneliness and isolation, with older people being at a higher risk and subject to stricter self isolation rules.
The British Red Cross believes a lack of meaningful contact, a reduction of informal and formal support, and increased anxiety have increased the feelings of loneliness suffered during the crisis.
Loneliness can often be accompanied by other vulnerabilities, such as lower incomes, long-term health conditions, mental health issues, or being a refugee or asylum-seeker, their report found.
The British Red Cross is calling for secure and sustained funding to support those who are loneliest, including building on the NHS social prescribing scheme that connects members of society with groups and activities.
Executive director to the BRC Zoe 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."
Their survey also found that people from BAME background were more likely to suffer with feelings of loneliness.
Their Connecting Communities social prescribing scheme and helpline have been supporting individuals through the crisis and by distributing wellbeing packages that include physical exercises, games, colouring-in books, recipes and houseplants.
Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, director of public health and wellbeing at Lancashire County Council, said: "Mental health and illnesses, especially lockdown loneliness is likely to be major public health issue amongst people who have been shielding.
"We have a range of support available for people across Lancashire and South Cumbria at healthierlsc.co.uk/MentalHealthSupport"
For those whose are struggling with the effects of loneliness, organisations like Lancashire Mind have a range of resources. Visit lancashiremind.org.uk.