Within Britain’s loneliness epidemic, young people in England are at the epicenter

Isolation can be deadly.
Isolation can be deadly.
Image: Reuters/Toby Melville
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Britain, alongside other wealthy nations, has a loneliness epidemic and it’s killing people. The UK government even appointed a loneliness minister to tackle the problem.

And contrary to assumptions about the problem being a consequence of aging, it seems that young people are at the heart of the crisis.

Data released by the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) this week show that adults aged 16 to 24 years in England reported feeling lonely more often than those over 65.

The ONS says that one of the possible reasons for this is because “people become more resilient to loneliness as they get older, possibly through the experience of significant life events and life transitions.”

Another significant difference was found by gender—women reported feeling lonely more frequently than men.

Other major variables that contribute to feeling lonely include:

  • Renting a home rather than owning one
  • Being single or widowed
  • Having poor health
  • Feeling disconnected from the local community

This explains why young adults who are renters and have little trust in or a “sense of belonging to their area” make up one of the three profiles the ONS identifies at particular risk.

But while young adults, especially women, report being lonely more frequently than male pensioners, there are two other groups ONS sees at risk—middle-aged people who are unmarried and suffer from long-term health conditions, and widowed older homeowners living alone with long-term health problems.

It’s estimated that half of the English population 75 and over—about two million people—live alone. The ONS said that research (paywall) shows loneliness is associated with poor life expectancy: “This might mean that people who are lonelier also live shorter lives and are therefore less likely to be represented among the older population.”