Young most acutely affected by loneliness in region’s biggest city

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YOUNG PEOPLE are experiencing loneliness more than any other age group amid fears over the long-term implications on their health, according to new research.

Almost two-thirds of adults in Yorkshire experience loneliness either often, always or sometimes, the survey by social initiative The Big Lunch revealed.

Researchers highlighted the region’s biggest city, Leeds, where the feeling is most acute among 18 to 34-year-olds, with 83 per cent of this age group experiencing loneliness.

Adults in Yorkshire spend just 44 minutes a day engaging socially and, in a typical week, interact with only six friends, family members or neighbours – be it a face-to-face conversation, a phone call or chatting online.

The Campaign to End Loneliness, partners in The Yorkshire Post’s Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign, said that results were “very concerning”, as research shows those experiencing loneliness are more likely to smoke, drink too much and eat less fruit and vegetables.

Charity director Laura Alcock-Ferguson added: “However, it is positive that this survey highlights why it’s so important that people recognise and talk about the way they feel, which is an important first step in addressing loneliness and eventually going on to lead a more healthy and happier lifestyle.”

The research also indicated a shift to more people experiencing loneliness, with more than a third of those in Yorkshire saying they have less interaction with people they know than they did five years ago.

A third said they find it harder to make new friends than they did a decade ago.

The research, funded by the Big Lottery, was commissioned by The Big Lunch, an initiative led by Cornwall’s Eden Project that encourages neighbours to get together.

The national statistics go against preconceived ideas that loneliness is mainly of problem of the old, with around half of those 55 and over saying they never feel lonely, while in the younger age group, 18 to 34-year-olds, 43 per cent wished they had more friends.

Dr Rebecca Harris, from the University of Bolton, which supported the research, said: “Loneliness is far more complicated than people imagine. It’s often seen as a one dimensional state, either ‘lonely’ or ‘not lonely’ and that just isn’t the case. It can be a temporary state, but when prolonged, it’s a serious issue. Research shows that our brains treat loneliness in the same way as physical pain and it has been associated with poor mental and physical health, so it’s important that people take steps to overcome loneliness.”

Esther Rantzen, of older people’s helpline The Silver Line, who backs The Yorkshire Post campaign, says: “Loneliness has become an epidemic in the UK. This survey highlights how loneliness affects both young people and the older generation, while other research shows that it can contribute to depression and other serious risks to health.” Almost two thirds of adults in Yorkshire experience loneliness either often, always or sometimes, the survey by social initiative The Big Lunch revealed.

Researchers highlighted the region’s biggest city, Leeds, where the feeling is most acute among 18 to 34-year-olds, with 83 per cent of this age group experiencing loneliness.

Adults in Yorkshire spend just 44 minutes a day engaging socially and, in a typical week, interact with only six friends, family members or neighbours – be it a face-to-face conversation, a phone call or chatting online.

The Campaign to End Loneliness, partners in The Yorkshire Post’s Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign, said that results were “very concerning,” as research shows those experiencing loneliness are more likely to smoke, drink too much and eat less fruit and vegetables.

Charity director Laura Alcock-Ferguson added: “However, it is positive that this survey highlights why it’s so important that people recognise and talk about the way they feel, which is an important first step in addressing loneliness and eventually going on to lead a more healthy and happier lifestyle.”

The research also indicated a shift to more people experiencing loneliness, with more than a third of those in Yorkshire saying they have less interaction with people they know than they did five years ago. A third said they find it harder to make new friends than they did a decade ago.

The research, funded by the Big Lottery, was commissioned by The Big Lunch, an initiative led by Cornwall’s Eden Project that encourages neighbours to get together. The national statistics go against wider conceived ideas that loneliness is more impacted on older people, with around half of those aged 55 and over saying they never feel lonely, while in the younger age group, 18-34 year olds, 43 per cent wished they had more friends.

Dr Rebecca Harris, from the University of Bolton, which supported the research, said: “Loneliness is far more complicated than people imagine. It’s often seen as a one dimensional state, either ‘lonely’ or ‘not lonely’ and that just isn’t the case. It can be a temporary state, but when prolonged, it’s a serious issue. Research shows that our brains treat loneliness in the same way as physical pain and it has been associated with poor mental and physical health, so it’s important that people take steps to overcome loneliness.”

Esther Rantzen, founder of older people’s helpline The Silver Line, who has backed The Yorkshire Post’s campaign, says: “Loneliness has become an epidemic in the UK. This survey highlights how loneliness affects both young people and the older generation, while other research shows that it can contribute to depression and other serious risks to health. Having received more than 400,000 calls since The Silver Line launched in 2013, most callers tell us they literally have nobody else to talk to.”

Campaign highlights health risk of loneliness

The Yorkshire Post launched the Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign in February 2014 after revealing how loneliness takes a toll on 91,300 older people in our region.

According to research, living with loneliness is as detrimental to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and can contribute to dementia and high blood pressure.

We want loneliness to be recognised as a health priority by the regions health and wellbeing boards and want to encourage our readers to volunteer for support services.

This year we teamed up with the Durham Ox in Crayke to lunch the Friendship Lunch, and inclusive monthly lunch where everyone is invited. The next takes place on Monday May 11.