Today is the start of Mental Health Awareness Week and the Mental Health Foundation want to raise awareness of and break the stigma of loneliness.
The Mental Health Foundation describe loneliness as: the feeling we experience when there is a mismatch between the social connections we have and those that we need or want – we think we can all relate to this at some point in our lives.
To coincide with Mental Health Awareness week, the Mental Health Foundation have released a report, “All The Lonely People”.
This report explores what it’s like to be lonely: its causes, consequences, the groups of people who are more likely to experience severe and enduring loneliness and looks at the strong links between loneliness and mental health. The report then suggests ways for an individual to cope with loneliness and also suggests ways, society in general, can help address loneliness in the UK.
Who experiences Loneliness?
While anyone can experience loneliness, certain risk factors increase our chances of severe and lasting loneliness that can affect our mental health.
In 2016-17, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) clustered the predictors of loneliness into three profiles to help illustrate the type of person who may be at greater risk of loneliness:
Widowed, older homeowners living alone with a long-term condition - Commonly female, likely retired, better off financially than average, living in least deprived areas.
Unmarried, middleaged adults with a long-term condition - Commonly worse off financially, living in more deprived areas, not in paid work, and reporting their long-term condition or disability as limiting.
Younger renters with little trust or sense of belonging in their area - Commonly in paid work, living as a couple, worse off financially, and living in deprived areas.
The report points out that although loneliness is well documented in older people, there is a myriad of risk factors that can make someone more likely to be lonely.
- Being widowed
- Being single
- Being unemployed
- Living alone
- Having a long-term health condition or disability
- Living in rented accommodation
- Being between 16 and 24 years old
- Being a carer
- Being from an ethnic minority community
- Being LGBTQ+
Prevalence of Loneliness
Loneliness is different to solitude or simply being alone: you can be lonely even when surrounded by people. We’re all likely to know how it feels to be lonely, but for some of us it can be more frequent, intense and enduring.
Loneliness is sometimes broken down into three types:
- Emotional loneliness – the absence or loss of a significant other, such as a partner or close friend, with whom you have a meaningful relationship
- Social loneliness – the lack of a wider social network that can provide a sense of belonging and community
- Existential loneliness – a sense of feeling disconnected from others, and as though life is empty and lacks meaning.
What does loneliness feel like?
Five clear themes emerged from the Metal Health Foundation’s research into loneliness:
- Loneliness is different for everybody
- Experiencing severe and enduring loneliness has a damaging impact on our mental health – it drags people down
- It’s easier to talk about mental health than loneliness
- A combination of practical and psychological barriers prevents people from connecting with others
- There are opportunities for intervention and to provide support
Public understanding of loneliness
The report found that the general public understand some of the factors which tend to increase people’s risk of loneliness such as being out of work or people living with a physical disability or health problem however the report also found some groups at risk of loneliness are often overlooked – including LGBTQ+ people, students and carers and that people tend to overestimate loneliness amongst older people and underestimate it amongst younger adults.
How to cope with loneliness and improve your mental health
The report recognises that dealing with loneliness can be difficult but that there are things we can all do to cope with loneliness and prevent some of the negative feelings and mental health problems that can come with it.
The Mental Health Foundation suggests the following coping strategies to help cope with loneliness:
- Physical Activity
- Engaging with people you meet in your daily life
- Find people that ‘get you’
- Do things that you enjoy that will keep you busy and stimulate your mind
- Spend time with pets
- Use social media in a positive way to build connections
- Talking therapies such as CBT can help
Addressing loneliness across society
The Mental Health Foundation are calling on several UK-wide policy asks to address loneliness across society. They include:
1. Taking a strategic approach to loneliness
2. Developing the community resources needed to tackle loneliness
3. Building a greener lived environment that supports social contact
4. Supporting children and young people with interventions in education settings
5. Ensuring that everyone has access to digital communication technology, and the skills to use it, and respecting preferences for non-digital forms of communication
You can read the full report here.
We understand the risk factors of loneliness and we endeavour to work with our clients to ensure they continue to have access to the things that matter most to them inside and outside their home. Whether that is supporting our clients to continue their hobbies or interests, visiting family or friends or support accessing religious activities - if it’s important to our clients then it’s important to us.
If you are looking for support and/or assistance to continue to live independently in your own home, we are here to help. Call us today on 01782 444007 to see what we can do for you.