One in four young people feel ‘left behind’ in world of social networking while 2.5 million elderly are secretly dreading Christmas
Young people are suffering an “epidemic” of loneliness on a par with the levels of isolation experienced by the elderly despite being more “connected” by technology than any previous generation, new research suggests.
Polling for a series of special BBC television and radio programmes has found that almost one in 10 adults expects to spend most or all of Christmas Day alone.
It also found that three in 10 of those aged between 18 and 24 say they experience loneliness at least some of the time, almost the same rate as that among those over 65 (31 per cent).
But, significantly, the polling also pointed to a yearning for traditional face-to-face communication in an age when more interactions than ever before take place through technology.
The survey, for a special day of programmes under the slogan “A Life Less Lonely”, is one of a series of studies published on Friday highlighting the issue of loneliness, which has been linked with poor health and other well-being measures.
New research for the charity Age UK calculates that around 400,000 older people in the UK are worried about being lonely at Christmas and that as many as 2.5 million are secretly dreading the festival because it brings back memories of loved-ones who have died.
But separate academic research by Brunel University London for the Campaign to End Loneliness, an alliance of charities, concluded that Christmas is, in fact, one of the least lonely times of the year for older people because families are more likely to get together.
Interviews conducted by Prof Christina Victor, a specialist in public health, found that only 31 per cent of the sample feel lonely often or most of the time in December, the same rate as can be seen in early spring. It compares with 41 per cent in June, when the days are longest, and 45 per cent in September.
Meanwhile the ComRes poll for the BBC found that just over a quarter of British adults (28 per cent) feel lonely at least some of the time, a figure which rises to 30 per cent among 18 to 24-year-olds and 30 per cent of those over 65.
But a third of Britons – including 27 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds – feel “left behind” by new ways of communicating and 85 per cent insist they prefer speaking to friends and family directly face to face.
Laura Ferguson, Director for the Campaign to End Loneliness says: “It’s very concerning that nearly a third of British people feel lonely as research shows loneliness and isolation is as harmful to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
“It’s good to see that the majority of people realise they should do more to help those who are lonely.
“But loneliness is not just experienced at Christmas, so we all need to support people year round.”
Caroline Abrahams, director of Age UK, said: “No one should feel lonely at any time of the year.
“The festive season is usually a time for celebration with loved ones and these figures come as a timely reminder of the scale of the issue.
“People’s social networks often shrink due to life-changing events such as retirement and bereavement which can increase the risk of feeling lonely.”