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The Loneliness of the Covid 19 Pandemic

The Loneliness of the Covid 19 Pandemic

It’s fair to say that we’re experiencing a loneliness epidemic in the UK. The covid-19 pandemic has significantly contributed to the levels of loneliness and the deterioration of mental & physical health across the country.

The irony is that if you’re feeling lonely - you’re not alone.

During the first UK lockdown 2.6 million adults reported that they regularly felt lonely, and over 7 million adults reported that their well-being and mental health had been adversely affected by the onset of being locked down. ** (ONS May 2020)

Almost 2 years later and the devastating impact of loneliness on many is still being felt.

Who is suffering the most?

Almost nobody has escaped at least moments of feeling isolated in these recent times. Loneliness and isolation have been experienced by people of all ages across every walk of life. 

In the past 2 years we have all missed the everyday interactions that add colour and meaning to our days, from meeting friends and family for a meal, to congregating in religious/spiritual settings, schools, workplaces, travelling and enjoying community groups and activities.

The measures to control the virus, whilst necessary, have had a teal and devastating effect on our collective mental health and wellbeing. Lockdown measures have, unfortunately, deprived us of the very thing that makes us human and gives meaning to our lives - our physical connection with other people.

The elderly & those over 65 have perhaps been the most affected, due to their vulnerable status in relation to the virus itself. But let’s not forget the generation in their 20’s, many of whom have been working from home in cramped and unsuitable conditions or have been left adrift by University courses being shifted to the virtual world while others have lost work at an all-important stage to progress in their careers.

Ill effects of loneliness

Doctors have known for some time that loneliness is bad for our mental health and can lead to mental health problems like depression, stress, anxiety, and a lack of confidence - which in itself can prevent us from improving our situation.

There is now growing evidence that social isolation can have a detrimental impact on our physical ill health as well. 

Doctors increasingly believe that loneliness can lead to higher inflammation levels in the body that can trigger a number of chronic health conditions and early death.

It’s fair to say that reducing loneliness would be beneficial to health.

Things to try to help with loneliness

The good news is that people can recover from loneliness. It isn't a life-long condition.

If you’re feeling lonely right now, taking just one small, positive step to engage with others outside of your own internal world will have an immediate effect on improving your situation. 

Don’t try to solve everything at once - but perhaps try these three simple steps.

  • Keep in touch with someone you love. Send a text/email or pick up the phone today to just one person who will lift your mood. If you don’t feel you have someone to contact, maybe just strike up a conversation with the staff in your local coffee shop. If you struggle to do this, book an appointment with your GP for a conversation and for support.
  • Join a group. Feeling lonely can make you anxious about putting yourself out there and exposing the fact that you are feeling isolated. So this might feel like a difficult thing to do. But there are lots of virtual/online groups around - for example there are thousands of Facebook groups around where you can chat to like minded people with similar interests to you without any pressure to meet in real life.
  • Help others. One way to get yourself out and to lift your spirits is by helping others. Volunteer for just a few hours a week at your local foodbank or charity. Perhaps you might like to walk a neighbour’s dog or cook for a family you know in your street? You never know what it could lead to, but it will almost certainly engage you in the human interaction that’s missing from your life right now.

Support

You may feel that you cannot put these steps into action. That is perfectly fine. Be patient, with yourself. Tackling loneliness and the negative emotions that go with it can and will take time. But small, positive steps will take you in the right direction.

If you feel you would benefit from more support, information is available on the NHS Let's Talk Loneliness Website.

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January 2022