Sam Dick, Director of Campaigns, Policy and Research at the Campaign to End Loneliness, said:
“The findings of The Loneliness Experiment come at a critical moment. With the Government due to publish its strategy on loneliness later this month, the survey results demonstrate that for real change to be achieved, clear and practical commitments need to be made by a number of Government departments. Without these, we won’t see the progress on loneliness we need. Decisions made at a national level will make the difference between people remaining connected with friends and family, or going for weeks on end without seeing anyone.
“We know loneliness can affect people at any age, and it is very positive to see that younger people are able to be open about their experiences. The stigma of loneliness is deeply isolating and we hope younger people can help drive a change in culture that will eradicate that stigma. However, we know that older people tend to feel the stigma of loneliness more. Our 2017 research into attitudes to loneliness found that more than half of British adults (56%) say admitting to loneliness is difficult, but that over three quarters of over-65s (76%) would find it hard to admit to feeling lonely because they do not want to be a burden.
“We also know that 9 in 10 people (89%) believe loneliness in older age is now more likely than ever. This partly reflects the fact that triggers for loneliness – such as the death of a partner or ill health or reduced mobility – are more common in later life. However, it is also because of our negative views about ageing. Young people are often portrayed as fun, connected, and happy, compared to older people who are portrayed as dull, miserable and draining. This makes the results of The Loneliness Experiment seem jarring: the fact that young people are also affected by an issue usually associated with older age. In light of this, we must challenge the ageism that contributes to loneliness in older age being seen as inevitable and a routine part of later life. Loneliness must be taken seriously in older age too.
“In spite of what the results indicate, we need to remain vigilant to ensure the unique and significant experiences of older people are not overlooked. This is a swiftly growing demographic; as Age UK revealed just last week, the number of lonely over 50-year-olds is set to hit two million within seven years. While we support an intergenerational focus on loneliness, we urge the Government not to neglect the growing needs of an ageing population. Older people are still far more likely to experience chronic loneliness with devastating health impacts than younger people. Is vital that we do not lose sight of that.”