• Kevin Murphy

Loneliness During the Coronavirus Pandemic in the UK

The Covid19 pandemic has produced many casualties over the past year from not only deaths and sickness but unemployment, increase poverty, increase in suicides, alcohol abuse and another not often mentioned issue for people of all ages-loneliness. A report from the Office of National Statistics just released says: "Areas with a higher concentration of younger people and areas with higher rates of unemployment tended to have higher rates of loneliness during the study period."

Since spring of 2020 levels of loneliness in Great Britain have increased with a survey finding that between 3 April and 3 May 2020 5.0% of people or about 2.6 million adults said that they felt lonely "often" or "always". Additionally "from October 2020 to February 2021, results from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) show that proportion increased to 7.2% of the adult population (about 3.7 million adults)."

Also reported. was : "Local authorities in countryside areas also had a lower loneliness rate than urban, industrial, or other types of area."

The Office for National Statistics – Opinions and Lifestyle Survey found that:

"Adults aged 16 and over across GreatBritain were asked how often they felt lonely, where the options were "often/always" / "some of the time" / "occasionally" / "hardly ever" / "never". Those reporting feeling lonely often / always is used as the indicator."

Locations with younger people had higher levels of loneliness and places with a lower average median age group experienced higher rates of loneliness during the pandemic. "A greater percentage of people in that area said they “often or always” felt lonely. Higher rates of loneliness reported by young people are particularly associated with urban areas outside London."

The study reports that age and marital status are known to be significant factors in experiences of loneliness. Before the Covid pandemic those "aged 16 to 24 years, renting, and single were more likely to say they often felt lonely than older age groups or those who were married."

For students earlier research during the pandemic found that almost two-thirds of students reported a decline and worsening of their mental health and overall well-being.

The report states:

"Over a quarter report feeling lonely often or always, a significantly higher amount than the adult population (8%). This is likely to be affecting loneliness scores for younger people in general at a local level."

For those in a single-person household, problems and other issues for relationships caused by the pandemic, was likely to cause experiences of loneliness.

"From October 2020 to February 2021, of those who said their well-being had been affected in the last seven days by the pandemic, 38.6% (about 10.5 million people) said it was because they were lonely."

Additionally research showed:

"The odds of people who said they had no one to talk to reporting lockdown loneliness were almost 10 times greater than those who did have someone to talk to. Respondents who said they felt very uncomfortable leaving the house were also more likely to report lockdown loneliness compared with those who felt very comfortable leaving the house."

Not surprisingly unemployment has been closely tied to loneliness during the Covid pandemic. Local areas experiencing higher rates of unemployment as measured from October 2019 to September 2020 found "higher proportions of residents who said they were often or always lonely."

"Additionally, in areas where residents earn more on average per week, loneliness rates tend to be lower. The effect of unemployment on loneliness is particularly strong in urban areas outside London, while in London there is no clear correlation."

Examination of of locations with robust business activity and adult education were found to be more resilient to the problem of lonliness.

Countryside locations had lower crime rates also had lower levels of 'lockdown lonliness' than higher crime urban areas. In the period of April 2019 to March 2020 compared with April 2020 to September 2020) levels of anxiety strongly increased across Great Britain.

The study finds:

"During the pandemic, how densely populated an area is has become a more important factor for anxiety in local authorities in England, with higher population density linked to higher rates of anxiety."

"In the five months since October 2020, anxiety rates have increased particularly in areas assessed as having better quality provision for children’s education and educational attainment prior to the pandemic. This may relate to anxieties around home schooling, or worries about children falling behind educationally among adults in these areas. It is also noted that the age group of parents overlaps with the 25 to 44 years age group, which also reported higher "lockdown loneliness".

"Aspects of an area that are associated with lower rates of anxiety include better general health and more opportunities for cultural engagement. These findings applied particularly to urban areas outside London."

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