Loneliness during pandemic greater in areas with high concentrations of younger people

The odds of someone aged 16 to 24 reporting feeling lonely were around four times greater than someone aged 75 and over, according to ONS data

Kate Ng
Wednesday 07 April 2021 18:12
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Areas with higher concentrations of young people have higher rates of loneliness during the pandemic, according to the Office for National Statistics
Areas with higher concentrations of young people have higher rates of loneliness during the pandemic, according to the Office for National Statistics

New data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests that levels of loneliness during the coronavirus pandemic tend to be higher in areas where there are a lot of younger people and higher rates of unemployment.

People living in areas with higher crime rates or with higher levels of anxiety were also more likely to report feelings of loneliness.

However, rates of loneliness were lower in countryside areas compared with urban and industrial locations.

The ONS figures suggest 7.2 per cent of the UK’s adult population felt lonely “often or always” between October 2020 and February 2021.

This is equivalent to around 3.7 million people, up from 2.6 million, or 5.0 per cent of the population, between April and May 2020.

The region with the highest rate of loneliness in England was the northeast (8.7 per cent), whilst east England recorded to lowers (6.5 per cent).

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Wales held the highest rate of loneliness among Wales, England and Scotland, with 8.3 per cent of adults surveyed saying they felt lonely “often or always”.

This is compared with 7.3 per cent in England and 6.5 per cent in Scotland.

The ONS said places with a lower average age have generally experienced higher rates of loneliness during the pandemic, and that “higher rates of loneliness reported by young people are particularly associated with urban areas outside London”.

Factors that contributed to experiences of loneliness included living alone, difficulties with relationships caused by the pandemic, and not having anyone to talk to.

Figures for individual local authorities, where the sample size was large enough to ensure reliable estimates, show Tameside (15.1 per cent), Leicester (14.3 per cent) and Stoke-on-Trent (13.7 per cent) as having the highest loneliness rates in Britain.

They are followed by Sandwell (13.6 per cent), Nottingham (12.8 per cent) and Hull (12.5 per cent).

Sample sizes were too small for reliable estimates for local authorities in Scotland and Wales.

The ONS said that during the period between October 2020 to February 2021, of those who said their wellbeing had been affected in the last seven days by the pandemic, 38.6 per cent (around 10.5 million people) said it was due to feeling lonely.

Young people and single people have also been most affected by this seven-day measure or “lockdown loneliness”. The ONS also found that the odds of someone aged 16 to 24 reporting feeling lonely in the last seven days were around four times greater than someone aged 75 and over.

Unemployment was “one of the most important factors” identified by the ONS in their analysis.

Local authority areas with a higher unemployment rate had higher proportions of residents who said they were often or always lonely, while in areas where residents earn more on average per week, loneliness rates tended to be lower.

By contrast, areas with strong local businesses and adult education tended to have lower rates of loneliness. In particular, local authorities in London benefited in this way, said the ONS.

Places that tend to have lower crime rates showed lower levels of “lockdown loneliness” in the five months since October 2020.

This was true in countryside areas, which tended to see lower levels of loneliness than urban areas with higher crime rates.

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