Supporting London’s social and economic recovery by addressing the drivers of loneliness and its impact on mental health
Mental health awareness week this year focused on the theme of loneliness.
As London’s Deputy Mayor for Communities and Social Justice, I am acutely aware of the impact loneliness can have on people’s mental and physical health, economic opportunity, general wellbeing and more broadly on day-to-day life in the city.
London is a busy and dynamic city. The food, music, community, history, culture, and diversity are just a few of the things that make it one of the greatest places to live and work. But scratch just a little under the surface and you will find not everyone experiences the city in the same way.
Research, commissioned by the Greater London Authority (GLA), found there are 700,000 people who admit to experiencing severe loneliness in London.
Severe loneliness means that making the steps necessary to connect and form relationships with others can feel impossible. It isolates people and denies them the contact and support they need
Reconceptualising Loneliness in London, authored by the Campaign to End Loneliness, Neighbourly Lab and the What Works Centre for Wellbeing found that severe loneliness is a symptom of wider structural inequalities – the inherent biases in social structures, such as businesses, the labour market and public institutions -that exclude some Londoners from public and communal life.
Half of all Londoners suffering from loneliness live in acuIte poverty. More than 60% of those Londoners are single and living alone. Then there’s the stark finding that 41% of those suffering from severe loneliness also have a long-term disability. And 59% of those living with loneliness have also recently experienced prejudice.
These figures are deeply troubling, especially as we know that the ongoing impact of the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis has the potential to make these inequalities far worse.
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has spoken about his own experiences of loneliness through the pandemic lockdowns.
And it’s clear that the pandemic was isolating for so many. The sudden closure of schools meant parents faced juggling home-schooling and childcare around work as well as dealing with the emotional impact of the pandemic on their families. Those of faith, who would ordinarily have attended places of worship alongside others in their local communities, had to turn to online services which isolated many, and were impractical for some religious groups and those digitally isolated. Children and young people struggled with online schooling and missed their friends, and the toll on those trapped in homes that were abusive has been far reaching.
But we know that there are many Londoners who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and continue to face inequalities exacerbated by the rising cost of living.
Addressing loneliness and the drivers of loneliness is critical to London’s social and economic recovery.
In our work to recover from the pandemic, there are nine missions which we believe are key to getting London back and firing on all cylinders.
Our wellbeing and recovery mission will see 250,000 wellbeing champions across the city, empowering individuals, not only to support their own wellbeing but also that of their friends and reinforcing the connections which we feel are so important.
The building strong communities mission aims to strengthen the community groups that bring groups together to build relationships and encourage other voices to be heard.
The Mayor has also developed an online cost of living hub which has gathered together, in one place, expert advice on how to combat this period of intense strain, uncertainty and financial hardship.
We need to create a fairer, more integrated, less lonely, and more connected city to support the health and resilience of Londoners. Our recovery from this pandemic depends on building strong communities and addressing those inequalities that lie at the heart of our society.
You can read more information about Reconceptualising Loneliness in London