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Britain's youth are facing a loneliness crisis

Community involvement can help stave off loneliness, says new ONS study

Tracey Crouch

Young people are most likely to feel lonely according to new research ahead of the introduction of national measures of loneliness.

A total of five per cent of adults in the UK reported feeling lonely “always” or “very often” in the ONS study – with loneliness mostly affecting young adults between 16 and 24 and women more than men.

But the circumstances that lead to loneliness can come at a quicker rate as time ticks on with elderly widowers and those in poor health struggling to break the cycle after losing relatives and friends.

Loneliness is not simply the result of someone’s personality or character; it’s vital to acknowledge contributors to loneliness such as health and economic status

Renters were also more likely to suffer from symptoms than home owners with many of the people surveyed acknowledging that clear links with the community can help alleviate the problems.

Marital status, general health, long-term physical or mental health conditions, living alone or with others, housing tenure and age group are all circumstances that are found to put people at greater risk of feeling lonely more often.

These characteristics are no more apparent than when they are applied rough sleepers, who can be heavily affected by loneliness and social isolation.

Often homeless people are denied access to services that could help them build roots in the community while the opportunities for conversation while begging or rough sleeping are few and far between.

Selling The Big Issue can give our vendors a vital connection to the community – but only if customers speak up. If you’re buying the magazine or just passing by then even a quick hello or short conversation can make all the difference.

Theresa May unveiled her plans to tackle the problem in January, appointing the first ever loneliness minister – the Minister for Sport and Civil Society Tracey Crouch.

The move came after a report from the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission in December calling for a national measure of loneliness.

As a result, ONS is now working with cross-government groups, charities, academics and other stakeholders to define that with recommendations to be published later this year. In response to the research, Laura Alcock-Ferguson, executive director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, said: “We welcome the data released by ONS today. Loneliness is not simply the result of someone’s personality or character; it’s vital to acknowledge contributors to loneliness such as health and economic status.”

Denise Hatton, chief executive of YMCA England & Wales, pointed the finger at youth services funding.

“For some it will come as a shock that young people are the loneliest but for anybody working with them on a day-to-day basis this is no surprise,” she said.

“The reality is that local authorities are spending less on activities for young people to interact with each other. Councils are spending £206m less on youth services than 3 years ago. It is these positive experiences, where young people meet new friends and socialise that have been lost.

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