No one to lean on for lonely Brits, new study shows

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British people are among the loneliest in Europe, less likely to know their neighbours or have strong friendships, new research has shown.

Research compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that just 58 per cent of Brits say they feel connected to people in the area - almost bottom of the European league table.

Only Germany came out worse with Cypriots feeling closest to their neighbours with 80 per cent.

The UK also fared badly when it comes to having a close friend to lean on in a crisis, coming third from bottom in the poll of the 28 EU members, with just one in eight saying they had some to rely on.

Responding to the survey, the Campaign to End Loneliness, partners in The Yorkshire Post’s Loneliness campaign, was warned that the Government is failing to measure the problem directly and making the problem worse.

They argue that such a measure would help direct action and support to those most in need.

The charity’s director Laura Ferguson said: “Many people will be appalled to think that the UK is one of the loneliest places in Europe – but the simple truth is that we don’t even know how big this problem really is.

“Currently we only measure loneliness among those in care or caring for others. If you’re not in this group, we have no idea what problems you may be facing. This ignorance means that local authorities and charities don’t know where to put resources to make the biggest impact.

“The Government has said they are committed to introducing a wider measure for loneliness but we are yet to see any action. Loneliness has been shown to lead to profound ill health and if we don’t get a grip on this problem we are going to see the consequences in our hospitals and social care services.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “As a society we need to change our attitude to loneliness and be more creative about how we help people who are lonely feel part of their community.

“Local areas have access to information about people in the social care system who are isolated and we are working to help people to understand the link between people’s relationships and their mental and physical health and wellbeing.”

The Yorkshire Post first revealed the heartbreaking scale of loneliness affecting people in the region in February, when we launched our Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic Campaign.

More than 91,000 older people in the region admit to feeling lonely, and behind the sad statistics lies serious health implications.

Research shows living with loneliness can be as detrimental to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and the effects on mortality exceed those of obesity. High blood pressure, the risk of cardiovascular disease and the likelihood of developing dementia are all worsened in those suffering from loneliness.

Mervyn Kohler, Age UK’s external affairs advisor, said isolation could lead to the feeling of being neglected by society and loss of self esteem, leading to poor mental health and depression.

He said: “The implications are their health will suffer.”