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Loneliness spikes as dark nights and lockdown take their toll on mental health

New statistics released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that levels of loneliness have heightened in recent weeks with the arrival of darker evenings and a second lockdown – with one in four people reporting increased feelings of isolation.

The beginning of November saw a huge leap in the number of British residents voicing feelings of loneliness, with 4.2 million adults saying they felt more isolated, compared to just 2.6million before the first Covid lockdown began in March.

The clocks going back in early November could have contributed to an increase in the number of people in Britain reporting feelings of loneliness Credit: Pixabay/Pixel2013

The figures also reported that almost 2.6million people hadn’t left their homes in the last seven days.

Britain’s Minister for Loneliness, Baroness Dianna Barran, told the BBC that the months ahead, with the prospect of more lockdowns likely, would prove “incredibly challenging” and urged people to make an effort to stay in touch with friends and family, via phone calls or letters, saying: “It’s those simple things that make people feel valued”.

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The increased numbers are, she added, thought to be because of the emergence of new groups affected by isolation, including those who rely on work for social interaction, and those who don’t have online access at home.

The ONS research is based on data taken from more than 4,000 people, with young people – aged 16 to 29 – almost twice as likely as the oldest group – over 70s – to say they had experienced loneliness since the first lockdown in March.

The clocks going back in early November also proved significant, explained psychologist Vivian Hill, saying the ‘descent into winter’ reduces the chances for people to get outdoors, which can boost mood and reduce feelings of isolation.

Loneliness statistics have fluctuated since March but have been consistent in showing between ten and 14 million people have been affected in some way.