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Loneliness during coronavirus lockdown ‘most likely to affect young people’, study involving University of Cambridge finds




Young people are the most likely to be feeling lonely during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study by the Mental Health Foundation.

More than four in 10 of those aged between the ages of 18 and 24 said they have experienced loneliness in a longitudinal study that is tracking mental health during the crisis.

Young people are being badly affected by loneliness during the current lockdown (33939190)
Young people are being badly affected by loneliness during the current lockdown (33939190)

The figure of 44 per cent compares to 35 per cent in the next most affected group, those aged between 25 to 34, which equates to one in three.

One in six older people, aged over 55, said they felt lonely during these times.

The survey was collected from 2,221 adults in the UK aged 18 and over, as part of the Coronavirus: Mental Health and the Pandemic research project, and asked whether people had felt loneliness in the previous two weeks.

It is being led by the Mental Health Foundation in partnership with the University of Cambridge, Swansea University, University of Strathclyde and Queen’s University Belfast.

Results from the study into lockdown loneliness. Graphic: University of Cambridge (33942885)
Results from the study into lockdown loneliness. Graphic: University of Cambridge (33942885)

Professor Tine Van Bortel, from the Cambridge Institute of Public Health at the University of Cambridge, said: “It might feel surprising but what our research shows is that the group most likely to be experiencing these feelings are young people.

“It is worrying that close to half of them said they are concerned about feeling lonely, and special attention should be given to young people.

“However, we shouldn’t forget that loneliness is also clearly affecting very large numbers of people of all ages.”

Results from the study into lockdown loneliness. Graphic: University of Cambridge (33942883)
Results from the study into lockdown loneliness. Graphic: University of Cambridge (33942883)

The feelings of loneliness more than doubled across the lockdown period, the research also found.

In the first round of the survey in March, before the lockdown, 10 per cent of adults said they felt lonely, and that rose to 24 per cent by the beginning of April.

Before lockdown, 16 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 felt loneliness because of coronavirus, before rising to 44 per cent after two weeks of lockdown.

Dr Antonis Kousoulis, director at the Mental Health Foundation, said: “Our data reveal that millions of people in the UK are experiencing feelings of loneliness – which is a key risk factor for developing or worsening mental health problems.

“The concern is that the longer the pandemic goes on, the more feelings become long-term. The impact of long-term loneliness on mental health can be very hard to manage.

Results from the study into lockdown loneliness. Graphic: University of Cambridge (33942880)
Results from the study into lockdown loneliness. Graphic: University of Cambridge (33942880)

“While the initial priority must be to prevent loss of life, we fear that we may be living with the mental health impacts of the coronavirus situation for many years to come.

“This is especially true of vulnerable groups and it is critical that governments and others are mindful of this in developing policy as we go forward.”

The research project is carrying out ongoing analysis of the data during the pandemic which covers 20 topics including the unequal impact on the mental health of at-risk groups, the key drivers of risk to mental health, and how people in the UK are coping.


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