People are more chronically lonely now than before Covid-19 according to new loneliness research

New analysis of ONS data from the Campaign to End Loneliness in finds that between December 2021 and February 2022:

  • 3.3 million people living in Britain were ‘chronically lonely’ (or felt lonely all the time) between December 2021 and February 2022
  • This compares with a previous survey from April and May 2020 which  indicated that 2.6 million adults (5% of people) were chronically lonely
  • Around 1 million younger people (aged 16-29) were chronically lonely

People in Britain continue to be more lonely today than before Covid-19, despite the ending of social restrictions, according to the Campaign to End Loneliness. Published during Mental Health Awareness Week, which this year is focused on loneliness, the Campaign’s latest analysis of loneliness data from the Office for National Statistics, reveals that more people are now chronically lonely than before the pandemic. The results indicated  that 3.3 million people are lonely all or most of the time (‘chronically lonely’) compared to 2.6 million people in 2020. The figures also highlight that younger people are still more likely to report feeling lonely than older people 

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

“Covid-19 continues to have a massive impact on the very lonely – there are still more chronically lonely people now than there were before the pandemic. As restrictions lifted, many lonely people haven’t been able to heal and rebuild their networks even though there are more opportunities to connect with their friends and families. We think that’s because being chronically lonely makes it harder to reach out and can 

“It matters.  Chronic loneliness is particularly difficult to move on from. It stops some of our most vulnerable people living life to the full and damages both physical and mental health.  ‘Levelling up’, needs to include tackling loneliness and connecting most of the loneliest people in our society with targeted support.”

Notes to editor 

  1. Analysis of the data was carried in March 2022 to responses from ONS Opinions and Lifestyle Survey over two  time periods September-November 2021 and December -February 202 using a  a representative sample of people aged 16 and over in Great Britain.   To generate a larger sample we analysed six waves of the Opinion and Lifestyle Survey carried out by ONS. For the latest quarter (Dec 21- Feb 22) there were on average 3,502 (standard deviation: 597) participants per timepoint, ranging from 3,130 to 4,700 responses. 
  2.  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).
  3. Acknowledgements to Office for National Statistics for access to their Opinions and Lifestyle Survey data
  4. Analysis of data was carried out by Heather Mcclelland, consultant researcher to the Campaign to End Loneliness
  5. 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.