Loneliness; pandemic’s hidden toll cannot be ignored – The Yorkshire Post says

WHEN THE Yorkshire Post launched its agenda-setting loneliness campaign seven years ago, the presumption was that it was the elderly, and rural residents, who were at greatest risk of social isolation.

Theresa May launched the national loneliness strategy with Kim Leadbeater, the sister of murdered MP Jo Cox.

Yet, as the campaign gained momentum, it soon became apparent that loneliness was a condition that afflicts people from all walks of life, and that social media interaction was no substitute for the void in the lives of those cut-off from friends and family.

This was borne out by pre-pandemic research which revealed that nearly one quarter of all young people said that they suffered regular bouts of loneliness, a trend borne out by newly-published data from the Office for National Statistics.

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It indicates that loneliness rates are lower in countryside areas, compared with urban and industrial locations, and people in areas with higher crime rates are also more likely to report feeling lonely and anxious.

As Prime Minister, Theresa May did much to highlight the issue of loneliness.

The fact that such statistics are recorded is indicative of the difference made by Jo Cox, the late Batley and Spen MP, adopted by Rachel Reeves, the Leeds West MP, former premier Theresa May and many others.

The question now is how the Government, local authorities and voluntary sector are going to respond to these findings. With Baroness Diana Barran the designated Minister for Loneliness in 2019, this newspaper, for one, hopes to hear far more from her in the coming weeks about the evolving national loneliness strategy which has assumed even greater societal importance as Covid takes its toll on the nation’s mental health. It’s also in the wider interests of the NHS to keep up the positive impetus of recent years.

In the meantime, The Yorkshire Post knows it can count on readers to look out for near-neighbours – and those whose spirits, and health, will be lifted by a conversation or small act of kindness. Thank you.

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The late Batley & Spen MP, Jo Cox, was the first politician to highlight the importance of loneliness.
Baroness Diana Barran is the current Minister for Loneliness.