Lonely and left behind

Our report calls on governments across the UK to renew their commitment to tackling loneliness this winter.

Our report, Lonely and left behind: tackling loneliness at a time of crisis provides rich insight into how some of the people most affected by the pandemic are coping, and how they’re not. Its findings make the case for more action to tackle loneliness as we head into new restrictions, and an inevitably difficult winter. 

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For more information please contact our media team on 07834 525650 or press@redcross.org.uk.

A young mother feeds her baby from a bottle.

Lonely and left behind draws on findings from a combination of in-depth, one-to-one interviews and diary entries completed between 22 July and 1 September 2020. It also uses data from a UK representative polling sample of 2,002 people conducted between 29 September and 14 October.

Key findings

  • The pandemic is making loneliness worse. Isolation, financial insecurity and increased stress are making more people feel lonely. People living alone, living with a disability and younger people are particularly at risk. 
  • Too many people lack strong support networks. Thirty-nine per cent of UK adults say they haven’t had a meaningful conversation with someone in a fortnight and a third worry something will happen to them and no one will notice.
  • Some people have never stopped shielding or isolating. Despite restrictions easing over the summer, some people have not felt comfortable leaving their homes. Watching others resume their social lives has made these people feel ‘left behind’. 
  • People who are lonely feel less able to cope. There has been a sharp rise in the number of people who say they are too lonely to cope with the Covid-19 crisis since May. Two in five people say loneliness is having a negative impact on their mental health.
  • People often don’t know how to help themselves and others. The pandemic and lockdown restrictions have had a significant impact on people’s strategies for managing loneliness and many find it too difficult to talk to others about their feelings.
  • Further lockdowns and winter risk entrenching feelings of loneliness. People are concerned that more lockdowns will bring them back to ‘square one’ and are worried about their ability to cope.

Our recommendations - an overview

  • Civil society organisations should continue to tackle loneliness, share learning and prioritise those most at risk. Together, we should design solutions directly with people with lived experience that are both safe and effective.   
  • Governments across the four nations should launch a plan to tackle loneliness this winter. This should build on the best practice identified through the UK government's first plan to tackle loneliness during coronavirus lockdown. It should also recognise the additional challenges the winter period and increase of Covid-19 bring.
  • Governments should ensure those most at risk of loneliness are able to access the mental health and emotional support they need to cope and recover from Covid-19. To enable this, local systems should have the capacity, resources and skills to meet increased demand. 
  • In the medium to longer term, tackling loneliness should be built into Covid-19 recovery plans. Governments should support local places to create and deliver multi-disciplinary recovery plans to tackle loneliness.