According to a recent survey by the Mental Health Foundation, 44% of Brits aged between 18-24 said that they felt lonely under coronavirus restrictions.
Prof Tine Van Bortel of the University of Cambridge said: “It might be surprising, but our research shows that the group most likely to be experiencing these feelings are young people. It is worrying that close the half of them said they are concerned about feeling lonely, and special attention should be given to young people.”
She added: “However, we shouldn’t forget that loneliness is also clearly affecting very large numbers of people of all ages.”
The research also revealed that there has been a massive surge in loneliness across all age groups in the last month. The team first asked people in March, shortly before lockdown measures were introduced, whether they were feeling lonely, and only 10% said yes.
However, when they asked again at the beginning of April, this figure had risen to 24%.
Dr. Antonis Koulis, Director of the ‘Mental Health Foundation‘, said:
“Our data reveals that millions of people in the UK are experiencing feelings of loneliness – which is a key risk factor for developing or worsening mental health problems. The concern is that the longer the pandemic goes on, the more feelings become long-term.
“The impact of long-term loneliness on mental health can be very hard to manage.”
The survey, which collected data from 2,221 adults in the UK aged 18 and over, is part of a major UK-wide longitudinal research project called Coronavirus Mental Health and the Pandemic. It was carried out between April 2nd and April 3rd and asked people whether they had experienced any loneliness in the past two weeks.
Dr. Koulis has expressed how vital it is that we take the mental health impact of COVID-19 seriously, saying: “While the initial priority must be to prevent loss of life, we fear that we may be living with the mental health impacts of the coronavirus situation for many years to come. This is especially true of vulnerable groups, and it’s critical that governments and others are mindful of this in developing policy as we go forward.”
The survey showed that the next most affected age group were adults aged 25-34, with 35% saying they had felt loneliness as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.
Only one in six over 55s said that they felt loneliness during this two week period of isolation.
What are the affects of lockdown we have seen so far?
Since lockdown measures were introduced on March 23rd, there have been several reported suicide deaths in young people due to mental health struggles brought on by the coronavirus and the subsequent lockdown.
Emily Owen, 19, tried to kill herself just before lockdown was due to start after feeling like “she could no longer cope” with the impending isolation. She was rushed to hospital and later died.
Kian Southway, from South Wales, was just 15 years old when he was found dead at his home. His mother told how her son had hinted a few days prior that he felt “isolated from the world.”
World Health Organisation Healthy at Home
The World Health Organisation healthy at home guides outline ways in which to help with mental health whilst living in lockdown.
The key points include:
- Keeping informed
- Have a routine
- Minimizing news feeds
- Maintaining social contact
- Keeping Alcohol and Drug use to a minimum
- Reducing the amount of screen time
- Video games can be a great way to relax
- Use Social Media to promote positive stories
- Help others
- Support health workers
Guidance for parents
The world health organisations guide says: “In times of stress, it is common for children to seek more of your attention.”
The World Health Organisation also say that these points are important:
- Maintain familiar routines as much as possible, or create new ones, especially if you must stay at home.
- Discuss the new coronavirus with your children in an honest way, using age-appropriate language.
- Support your children with at-home learning and make sure time is set aside for play.
- Help children find positive ways to express feelings such as fear and sadness. Sometimes engaging in a creative activity, such as playing or drawing, can help you with this process.
- Help children stay in contact with friends and family members through telephone and online channels.
- Make sure that your children have time away from screens every day and spend time doing off-line activities together. Do something creative: draw a picture, write a poem, build something. Bake a cake. Sing or dance, or play in your garden, if you have one.
- Try and ensure that your children do not spend significantly more time than usual on video games.