Lonely Britain

Lonely Britain

  • People under 30 (23 per cent) most likely to feel on their own despite being inundated with social media and ‘Facebook friends’
  • One in seven (15 per cent) Brits feel lonely
  • One in ten (10 per cent) people spend three quarters or more of their leisure time alone
  • Inner city people are more likely to be lonely than those in any other area
  • One in five (18 per cent) lonely people are embarrassed to admit feeling lonely
  • One in five (19 per cent) Brits don’t think anybody knows how lonely they feel

This stark figure is cause for concern as loneliness can be associated with neglecting vital relationships that sustains physical and mental health. Among those who say they feel alone, nearly three quarters (70 per cent) feel sad, over half (52 per cent) feel isolated, one third (34 per cent) are worried or anxious, and one in five (18 per cent) feel embarrassed. On top of this, one in five (19 per cent) Brits don’t think anybody knows how lonely they feel, adding to the isolation and difference brought about by this.

The report also reveals that the most lonely people in Britain are those aged under 30 (23 per cent compared to national average of 15 per cent), or those living in areas with a dense population such as inner cities (24 per cent) compared to villages (13 per cent) – this is particularly true in London where 18 per cent described themselves as lonely.

Dr Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation said:
“While loneliness is a natural emotion that everybody feels, chronic loneliness can lead to mental health problems. People who find themselves feeling lonely should not have to feel uncomfortable talking about it or asking for help. It’s essential to raise awareness of the issue to tackle the stigma attached to loneliness so that people feel more comfortable connecting with each other.”

Opinion is split when it comes to how much time people want to spend with others. Just under one quarter (22 per cent) would prefer to spend more time with friends, whilst one fifth (21 per cent) said they wanted more me-time. The majority (56 per cent) said the perfect amount was under one quarter of their leisure time, including 14 per cent who would ideally spend none of their time alone.

However, it is not all doom and gloom as there are benefits to spending time alone. Two in five (61 per cent) said that it gives them the opportunity to do things they like to do, as well as half (48 per cent) saying it allows them space to think.

Females were more likely than males to like being alone as they get more done when on their own (50 per cent vs. 37 per cent), and older respondents were more likely to enjoy their own company (52 per cent of those in their 60s vs. 42 per cent of those under 30), and enjoy the silence that comes with it (37 per cent in their 70s vs. 26 per cent under 30).

On the other side, spending time alone can be difficult as one quarter (23 per cent) said they miss talking to people, one fifth (18 per cent) like to share their experiences, and 17 per cent get bored of their own company quite quickly. However, over two fifths (43%) don’t dislike anything about being alone, but this varies widely with age – falling to 19 per cent among those under 30, and rising to half of respondents (50 per cent) aged 70 or over.

James Endersby, managing director of Opinium Research said: “Our report highlights that it’s easy to be lonely in a crowd and ‘Facebook Friends’ may be no substitute for real friends when it comes to alleviating loneliness. It could also be that many people these days are not comfortable being by themselves. It’s always important to take time out to think, but just make sure it’s not too much as there’s nothing better than sharing experiences with people around you.”

Other interesting statistics from the report

  • 17% of the population now live on their own (this rises to 23% in London)
  • Over a quarter of 30-39 year olds would prefer to spend more time on their own (26%), the highest proportion for any age group
  • While under 30s are most likely to want less time alone (32%)
  • Those in the North East and North West of England are some of the most lonely in Britain with 18% and 19% respectively saying they are lonely
  • Only 7 per cent of people in Yorkshire say they are lonely

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Opinium Research carried out an online survey of 2,032 UK adults aged 18+ from 6th to 9th May 2011. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria.

Opinium Research is a full service market research agency offering quantitative and qualitative marketing research and consultancy across a range of sectors. These include consumer markets, financial services and insurance, technology, business to business, advertising and media, automotive, business and leisure travel, politics and healthcare. Opinium’s offering spans consultancy, syndicated, Omnibus and field and data services. Opinium runs a daily low-cost online Omnibus survey interviewing 2000 UK adults per wave.