On loneliness

Loneliness affects not just the elderly, but the young too

“I’ll never forget that Christmas when, for the first time, I was on my own…” Born during the second world war, Brenda, 84, identifies the festive season during lockdown as the most distressing period of her life.

Constrained solely to phone lines as a way of keeping in touch with loved ones, the reality for the majority of the elderly population in the Poole and Bournemouth area was several years of extreme isolation.

“I live on my own and have a low immune system and [that] first Christmas I wasn’t allowed out at all, so I didn’t see anybody. But I did come down to church when I could and sit all by myself… it was [only] through the phone I felt something.”

Loneliness is a universal experience and doesn’t just effect the elderly. In fact, more than 45 per cent of UK adults have experienced loneliness. This accounts to more than 25 million people in the UK and over 2.5 million people every year. It’s a deep-rooted issue and important to understand loneliness is the feeling of involuntary separation and is not limited to actually being alone. 

Domestically, inside the BCP area the wards Westbourne and West Cliff are statistically the most at risk of loneliness. These areas have high numbers of elderly people as  Bournemouth seaside spots are often a popular place for retirement. In these areas community support groups such as PramaLife are key to keeping people in touch with one another, and trying to give a hand of support to isolated members of these communities. However, following the pandemic the need for these support groups has grown rapidly due to many residents being left alone and isolated for months.

The loneliness curve is U shaped affecting the young population just as much as the elderly. Young people have appeared to be impacted most with 16-24 year olds being 4 times more likely report lockdown loneliness than other demographics.

The world shifted to zoom calls and remote working and those of older generations who weren’t as in tune with technology found it extremely difficult to keep up with the pace of a changing globe. This is especially important within the migrant communities, who are widely isolated in a foreign country, as well as within their local communities, with no outlet for support.

A recent statistic from the mental health Charity MIND said that, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 88 per cent of young people have reported loneliness.

Further afield, both semi-professional and professional athletes are likely to experience bouts of emotional loneliness through their life. Research has indicated that the traditional stereotype of athletes are untrue and don’t represent the very lonely and often isolating lifestyles they lead. Sportspersons face isolation in tournament events, during heightened emotional situations that lead to national abuse from the media, for example Bakayo Saka and Marcus Rashford receiving abuse from the nation after missing decisive penalty kicks against Italy in the Euro 2020 final. It’s also widely known that athletes suffer from a lack of identity following their retirement.

Ultimately, everyone experiences loneliness, leading to this feeling of intense isolation, that  peoples view on the topic is subjective to their own personal story- that they are the main character. 

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