Loneliness doubles during coronavirus lockdown

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The Mental Health Foundation has found a quarter of Scottish adults are feeling lonely 

22nd April 2020 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

A quarter of people in Scotland have felt lonely because of coronavirus according to a major study which is tracking mental health across the pandemic.

The Mental Health Foundation – working with top universities across the UK – has conducted a major study of how lockdown and worries created by the virus is affecting people.

The research also revealed a major surge in feelings of loneliness which more than doubled across the lockdown period.

It found 24% of adults in Scotland said they feel lonely as a result of the pandemic.

When the researchers carried out its first round of the survey in March, shortly before lockdown started, 11% of Scottish adults said they had felt lonely.

Lee Knifton, director of the Mental Health Foundation Scotland, said: “The concern is that the longer the pandemic goes on for, the more feelings become long-term. The impact of long-term loneliness on mental health can be very hard to manage.

“That’s why we’re urging people to reach out to friends and family of all ages, particularly older and more vulnerable people at risk of isolation – and think about what steps we can take to help them stay connected. 

“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 is critical that governments and others are mindful of this in developing policy as we go forward.”

The survey data of 1028 Scottish adults aged 18 and over was collected as part of a major UK-wide longitudinal research project entitled – Coronavirus: Mental Health and the Pandemic.

The survey was carried out on 2 and 3 April and asked people whether they had felt loneliness in the “previous two weeks”

The UK-wide project is being led by the Mental Health Foundation in partnership with the University of Strathclyde, Swansea University, University of Cambridge and Queen’s University Belfast.

The most affected group in the study were young people (18-24 years) – with more than four in ten (43%) saying they felt lonely.

The next most affected group were adults aged 35-44 with almost than one third (32%) saying they had felt loneliness as a result of coronavirus. One in six of older people aged over 55 said they felt lonely as a result of coronavirus.

The survey has been published in the same week that the Scottish Government launched a new national mental health and wellbeing campaign to help people cope during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  The Clear Your Head campaign highlights the practical things people can do to help them feel better whilst continuing to stay at home, acknowledging these are worrying and uncertain times for many.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The restrictions on our lives, whilst vital, are undoubtedly tough. It is an understandable cause of anxiety for many people and we appreciate everyone’s efforts to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We should check in with people and see how they’re doing. Keeping in touch with friends and family by phone or through social media is very important at this time, particularly when you have elderly people or people self-isolating or shielding.”

“The Clear Your Head campaign highlights the practical things people can do to help them feel better whilst continuing to stay at home.”