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Fear and taboo linked to widespread loneliness in Britain

The majority of British people have experienced loneliness and also know someone who is lonely, according to new research. In a survey, 84 per cent of British people said they have felt lonely, with 13 per cent feeling lonely ‘all of the time’. The research commissioned by the Campaign to End Loneliness also shows that almost two-thirds of people (64 per cent) know someone who is lonely.
Despite the large numbers of people affected, the research suggests that loneliness is a taboo subject: 92 per cent of respondents think that people are scared to admit that they are lonely. The research also indicates that people who feel lonely will be judged negatively: when asked ‘what do you think people imagine about those who are lonely’ the most common responses were ‘there is something wrong with them’, ‘they are unfriendly’ and ‘it is their fault they are lonely’.
The organisation has previously found that 10 per cent of those over the age of 65 – over one million people – feel chronically lonely (that is, all or most of the time).
“The taboo and stigma around loneliness is stopping vulnerable people from opening up about their situation. This, in turn, makes it very difficult for local authorities and other support organisations to find the missing million older people who need our help.”
“The Campaign to End Loneliness has developed a step-by-step guide to help local authorities and stakeholders identify the hidden lonely. The Missing Million: In Search of the Loneliest in our Communities helps commissioners and service providers to identify older people experiencing, or who are at risk of experiencing loneliness. It will assist frontline workers to better understand and respond to loneliness, and to engage with older people experiencing loneliness.
“It is unacceptable that 20 per cent of Local Authority Health and Wellbeing Boards in England still have no written commitment to tackle loneliness in older age. We’re calling for all Boards to make a commitment by the end of the year. Every Local Authority in the country should put in place a clear action plan with measurable targets for reducing loneliness in their local population.
“If we are to drive lasting change for the better, however, we must make loneliness everyone’s business.  We need to create a movement for change that breaks down the stigma of loneliness and addresses it head on, like any other health issue.”
Marcus Rand
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