Blog: Understanding Loneliness, the Causes and Support

No one will be shocked to learn that loneliness in the UK increased during the Coronavirus pandemic. While only 5% of the adult population said they often or always felt lonely in 2016, in February 2021, 7.2% of adults said the same.

In both years, loneliness was more prevalent in people aged 18 to 24. Efforts to build workplace connections should not skip those that are in the office or customer facing role. With all types of employees indicating more than 1 in 5 is frequently lonely, efforts to continually connect with colleagues should include all groups.

We all feel lonely from time to time. Feelings of loneliness are personal, so everyone’s experience of loneliness will be different. One common description of loneliness is the feeling we get when our need for rewarding social contact and relationships is not met. But loneliness is not always the same as being alone.

Someone may choose to be alone and live happily without much contact with other people, while others may find this a lonely experience. Or you may have lots of social contact or be in a relationship or part of a family, and still feel lonely – especially if you don’t feel understood or cared for by the people around you.

Loneliness has many different causes, which vary from person to person. We don’t always understand what it is about an experience that makes us feel lonely. For some people, certain life events may mean they feel lonely, such as:

  • Experiencing a bereavement – sometimes the emotional impact of grief can cause an individual to go into their shell for a period of time.
  • Going through a relationship break-up – an individual may not feel comfortable being around other couples at the fear of feeling left out of conversations.
  • Retiring and losing the social contact you had at work – the lack of structure and getting out of bed at a certain time can have a real impact on someone’s daily activity.
  • Changing jobs and feeling isolated from your co-workers – it can be hard when you start a new job and don’t have a instant rapport with your work colleagues.
  • Moving to a new area or country without family, friends or community networks – this can cause someone to feel extremely isolated, especially when a person needs someone to talk to or support.

It is also important to spot the signs of loneliness within the workplace and both employees and managers can do this by noticing if someone:

  • Is spending a lot of time alone.
  • Has no close friends or acquaintances at work.
  • Lacks engagement in social activities.

Support Materials available

Through our Simplyhealth cash plan cover, our colleagues get 24/7 video access to a GP by booking an appointment or via the SimplyConsult app. Sometimes it’s easier to have a sensitive conversation with someone we don’t know and the Employee Assistance Programme helpline that we have in place is totally confidential.

Access to Internal Mental Health First Aiders

If colleagues would prefer to speak to someone they know, then we have in-house Mental Health First Aiders who will listen in confidence, and guide colleagues to the support and resources available. We currently have 40 trained Mental Health First Aiders in place, all of whom have been through the MHFA England course and go through a training refresher every 2 years.

Nobody should suffer in silence and by having such an open and honest environment here at Onward, we encourage colleagues to find the help they need, as and when they require it.

External Support Networks

 Age UK (England)

0800 678 1602

Information and support for older people.

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)

0800 58 58 58

Provides listening services, information and support for anyone who needs to talk, including a web chat.

Hub of Hope

UK-wide mental health service database. Lets you search for local, national, peer, community, charity, private and NHS mental health support. You can filter results to find specific kinds of support.

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