The biggest disease today is not leprosy or cancer or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody.
In 2014, Britain was declared by the Office for National Statistics as the loneliest capital to live in Europe, stating that we are less likely to have strong friendships or know our neighbours than inhabitants of any other country in the EU.
53% of young people have felt depressed because they felt alone
48% of 18–24 year olds say they often felt lonely
52% of Londoners agreed or strongly agreed that ‘people are getting lonelier in general’
17.8% of Londoners feel they don’t have a spouse, family member or friend to rely on if they have a serious problem.
This is the highest score of all regions in the UK.
These statistics are part of groundbreaking research called Coming in from the Cold – Why We Need to Talk About Loneliness Among Our Young People.
It attempts to begin to explore the epidemic of loneliness in London and focuses on people aged 16 – 32. Estimating that the health, crime and unemployment costs, in part associated with loneliness, in London add up to some £34.5 billion.
Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, called such statistics our “national shame”.
We are living in an epidemic of loneliness, it’s as big a problem for young and middle-aged people as for their grandparents generation and for all our social media ‘connections’, society is becoming increasingly disconnected.
Our feature on loneliness is due to becoming increasingly aware of the damage done by loneliness to young people which mainly goes unnoticed, ranging from poor physical and mental health, a suppression of future life opportunities and drifting into gangland culture or early parenthood.
MOVE aims to explore this topic and start an ongoing dialogue about how we can empower the loneliest capital in Europe.
WHAT IS LONELINESS?
Loneliness, according to many experts, is not necessarily about being alone. Instead, it is the perception of being alone that matters most.
While definitions of loneliness describe it as ‘a state of solitude or being alone’, loneliness is actually a state of mind and not necessarily linked to physical isolation.
People who are lonely often crave human contact, but their state of mind can make it more difficult to form connections with other people.
“I can be around a group of people and still feel alone”
“I drank in the evenings and smoked weed all day long just to feel like I had something to focus on…to stop myself feeling so alone.”
“Life can seem meaningless with no one by our side to talk to or share important milestones with.”
Loneliness is a feeling that causes people to feel empty, alone and unwanted.
Families can also be a lonely place – especially if someone or people in your family are critical, depressed, in abusive situations or alcohol/substance misuse is taking place.
The source of loneliness can be from a range of experiences, such as past traumas and usually stem from our feelings about our childhood and beliefs about who we are.
Ironically the things that are craved – relationships and physical connection – are a constant source of anxiety and stress to a person who experiences loneliness.
Those who are afflicted by it tend to deny it, ignore it, or simply tough it out.
WHAT CREATES FEELINGS OF LONELINESS?
The source of these feelings can be from a range of experiences however they usual stem from our feelings about our childhood and beliefs about who we are.
Humans need connection to thrive.
Deep down, we all want to belong somewhere. To feel a deep connection to others and be accepted and loved for who we are.
We are born into a relationship and we live our life through relationships, whatever conditions those relationships are.
Therefore if an aspect of our close relationships or family structure breaks down, an aspect of ourselves can break down too.
We can become scared, sad, depressed, disappointed or detached.
This can happen at any time of our lives:
If a friend moves away, we experience an illness, are in-between stages of our life – e.g. from college to university, university and starting a career- having a baby, loosing a partner… Life has many transitions which can affect this feeling of connection.
Past trauma can also make relationships and physical connection a constant source of anxiety and stress.
I’ve thought about ending my life because I think it’s pointless me being here. I don’t feel like anyone cares about me and I’m lonely all the time. I’ve tried to talk to people about how stressed and anxious I feel, but they’re not bothered. It’s like I’m worthless.
Whether you call it social isolation or loneliness, we believe that people being stuck at home all day long on their own is potentially the root of all evil…It can lead to everything from declining physical and cognitive abilities to self-neglect and depression.
If any of these issues are affecting you please seek support from someone responsible that you trust.
There are additional links in our community section.