Action is needed to raise awareness of loneliness and tackle the impact that it can have on people’s health and well-being, a Mental Health Foundation report published today has said.
A survey for the report, The Lonely Society?, found that one in 10 people often felt lonely and just under half thought that people were becoming lonelier in general because of the stresses of modern life.
It said loneliness could put people at risk of serious health problems either through increased stress levels, feelings of depression or increased levels of alcohol consumption.
Vulnerable groups include older people, those out of work and disabled people, said the report, which pointed to rises in the number of single-occupant households and people living away from their families as contributing to levels of loneliness.
The MHF said work was needed to tackle the stigma attached to loneliness so that people felt more comfortable asking for help.
The survey found that one in three people (30%) would be embarrassed to admit to feeling lonely (30%), despite just one in five people (22%) saying they never felt lonely.
The MHF said that intervention at an early stage could prevent chronic isolation. It called for the commissioning of peer support schemes for people at risk of isolation and good neighbour schemes that encourage neighbours to engage proactively with people at risk of isolation.
Chief executive Andrew McCulloch said: “We need to start shaping a new era in which social connection becomes a priority not just for policymakers but for every one of us.
“People who find themselves feeling lonely should not have to feel uncomfortable talking about it or asking for help.”