New loneliness figures warn of continuing impact from Covid-19 on levels of loneliness across Britain

New analysis of loneliness data by the Campaign to End Loneliness published today found that:

  • Levels of loneliness across Britain have still not returned to pre-Covid levels
  • 3.3 million people (6.3%) said they were ‘chronically lonely’ during Sept-Nov 2021, when lockdown restrictions had eased
  • Younger people (16-29 years) were more likely to report feeling lonely than older people

Further loss of socialising caused by the pandemic would have a seismic impact on levels of loneliness across Great Britain, according to the Campaign to End Loneliness.  

The loneliness organisation revealed today,  in new analysis of loneliness data from the Office for National Statistics, that even despite the easing of lockdown restrictions earlier in the year, Covid-19 already continues to have a massive impact on levels of loneliness, which means 3.3 million people (6.3%) continuing to say that they are ‘chronically lonely’ and feel lonely often or always between Sept-Nov 2021.  

The figures also demonstrated that levels of loneliness continue to be higher than before Covid-19 and that in recent months: – 

  • Younger people aged between 16-29 years were most likely to say they were lonely often or always. Reports of chronic loneliness went down significantly with age: 9% of those aged 16-29 reported chronic loneliness compared to 4% of those people aged over 70
  • More women than men are likely to report that they had experienced some feelings of loneliness (56% of women compared to 43% of men surveyed). Women were significantly more likely to report feeling lonely some of the time/occasionally than men. 

Robin Hewings, Programme Director of the Campaign to End Loneliness said: 

“These figures highlight that even when restrictions lift – our feelings of loneliness  do not quickly go back to normal. Loneliness can have a hugely damaging impact on our mental and physical health. Chronic loneliness is hard to get out of and it will take time and support for people to recover and rebuild their social connections up again.

“Concerted action will be needed – from national Governments, charities, local government and communities to put in place the structures and support that is needed to alleviate the impact of loneliness on our mental wellbeing. As individuals, we can also reach out to families and friends who we think may be lonely too.  

“Particular groups such as young people,  those living alone and people in more deprived communities will also need particular targeted support to help them ‘bounce back’ from the impact of Covid-19 on their social networks. 

“As the Omicron variant seems likely to reduce our ability to meet people, we may see levels of loneliness rise once again with serious impact on our mental wellbeing.“

Notes to editors

Analysis of the data was carried in early December 2021 to responses from the ONS Opinions and Lifestyle Survey over two time periods June – August and September-November 2021 a representative sample of people aged 16 and over in Great Britain. 

In comparison with previous ONS figures: Between  April and May 2020, 5.0% of people (about 2.6 million adults) said that they felt lonely “often” or “always”.  From October 2020 to February 2021, the proportion increased to 7.2% of the adult population (about 3.7 million adults).

Acknowledgements to Office for National Statistics for access to their Opinions and Lifestyle Survey data

Analysis of data was carried out by Heather Mcclelland, consultant researcher to the Campaign to End Loneliness 

Loneliness beyond Covid-19 was published by the Campaign to End Loneliness in July 2021 provides more information and insight into the experience of loneliness during and after Covid-19.