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‘Most connected’ generation millennials are caught up in Britain’s loneliness epidemic

Press Association logoPress Association 07/06/2018 By Ella Pickover

A lonely woman: People young and old experience loneliness in Britain (Dominic Lipinski/PA) © Provided by The Press Association People young and old experience loneliness in Britain (Dominic Lipinski/PA) A special message from MSN:

Nine million people across all age groups and walks of life in Britain are affected by loneliness. We've partnered with giving platform Benevity to raise funds for three charities - Mind, the Campaign to End Loneliness, and Wavelength – to tackle this debilitating and complex issue. You can help make a difference - please donate now.

Millennials are the most connected generation to have ever lived but a significant proportion of them are plagued by loneliness, an expert has warned.

The charity Relate said that under-25s are “increasingly likely” to experience loneliness.

But they are by no means the only generation tormented by the loneliness epidemic that is sweeping Britain.

Around a million elderly people are afflicted, with one woman describing how she felt as though she had “forgotten how to speak” after going so long without social contact.

And children as young as six are reaching out for help to combat feeling lonely.

It paints a depressing picture of the problem spanning all aspects of British society.

How loneliness affects different age groups © PA How loneliness affects different age groups The Government has said that loneliness is a complex issue but one it is “determined to tackle”.

But there appears to be a mammoth task ahead – figures show that the UK has a higher than average proportion of adults who have “no one to ask for help”, when compared with other European countries.

Official figures paint a particularly bleak picture among those aged 16 to 24 who reported feeling lonely more often than those in older age groups.

One in 10 young adults said they are often or always lonely, compared to just 3% of those aged 65 to 74.

PA © PA PA Meanwhile, Relate’s own survey of 5,000 Britons suggests that the levels of loneliness among 16 to 24-year-olds could be even higher, with almost two thirds (65%) feeling lonely at least some of the time.

Jago Corry found moving to a sixth form school for A-levels left him isolated and anxious when he was 16.

“I went into an environment where everyone knew each other and I didn’t,” he said. “People were friendly and would invite me to parties and stuff, but I just didn’t have the bravery to go.”

Jago Corry © Jago Corry/PA Jago Corry Now 19 and studying at Bournemouth University, Jago wishes he had shared his problems with his parents when he was younger but he found it hard to express what was wrong.

He said: “I went through my whole childhood feeling really anxious; I would throw up every day before going to school and I wouldn’t know what was happening to me. I had no idea about anxiety, let alone mental health.”

Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the charity, which offers counselling services and provides advice on relationships, said that face-to-face contact was of paramount importance in relationships.

“Research is showing that a group increasingly likely to experience loneliness is people under 25,” he told MSN.

PA © PA PA “That seems very surprising. That is the generation that is the most connected generation that has ever lived on the face of planet earth, yet is experiencing loneliness.

“[It] could be part of a wider set of challenges for millennials. What we certainly know from our work is that social media and technology adds value to our lives but doesn’t necessarily replace the connections that come from those in-person relationships and the importance of those.

“When we take a closer look at it we know there are a series of transitions for millennials, for younger people. Whether it is that move from their parents’ house to university – that can be a time of experiencing loneliness; but also when people leave university and go into the workplace for the first time or move city to take up a job.

“It’s a shorthand to just blame social media, we need to understand much more about millennials going through a series of transitions and also that people may be using social media as a way to try and fill that gap that they experience in terms of loneliness.”

Young influencer Jack Parsons has been awarded accolades such as Young Digital Leader of the Year and Most Connected Young Entrepreneur.

The 24-year-old has also been crippled with loneliness and the irony is not lost on him.

His business was helping young people to start their own businesses but he found himself asking: “How can I help young people when I feel lonely myself?”

Across all age groups the latest report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) paints a bleak picture, with one in every 20 (5%) English adults reporting feeling lonely often or always.

Jack Parsons was trying to help other young people when he realised he needed help himself © Jack Parsons/PA Jack Parsons was trying to help other young people when he realised he needed help himself An additional 16% said they felt lonely some of the time and almost a quarter said they felt lonely occasionally.

The figures were released by the ONS, which was tasked with compiling data as part of a drive to tackle loneliness launched by the Government earlier this year.

In January, Theresa May described loneliness as a “sad reality of modern life” for too many people as she announced a range of measures including the appointment of a minister with a specific brief to lead the Government’s response.

Renters, widowers and widows, single people, the unemployed and those in poor health were found to have a greater likelihood of frequently feeling lonely, according to the ONS report.

Married homeowners in good health, and who live with others, were found to have the lowest likelihood of loneliness.

MSN’s campaign on loneliness aims to raise awareness of the issue while trying to raise vital funds in a bid to tackle the growing problem.

Throughout its campaign, MSN will show how the issue spans all corners of British society – from the rising tide of children seeking help for loneliness to the retiree who felt as though she had “forgotten how to speak” due to feeling so lonely.

Janet, from London, dedicated her life to her career but after retiring she suddenly found herself feeling lonely.

The 71-year-old found that she felt “isolated” and would go days, if not longer, without speaking to anyone.

She told MSN: “I was no longer working in an office and so I was at home all of the time.

“I have got very little family and the family I have got were not really bothering to contact me.

“I could go for days if not longer without speaking to anybody.”

Janet decided to contact Age UK, telling the charity that “it could get to a point where I felt I had forgotten how to speak”.

The charity set Janet up with its Call in Time telephone befriending service.

Even with the weekly contact, Janet said that she still can go for days without chatting to somebody, but she told MSN: “This call really breaks it up and somehow lessens the effect of the isolation considerably.”

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director, told MSN that loneliness can be an “occupational hazard” of getting older.

Meanwhile, Childline told MSN how a rising tide of children had reached out due to feelings of loneliness.

MSN Loneliness Campaign: Who's affected and how is loneliness being tackled? Discover more and please donate now.

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