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A year of Covid-19 has made us lonelier – now’s the time for connection

Are we lonelier than ever? (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

There is no doubt about it, the Covid-19 pandemic has been devastating.

Loved ones have been lost, mental health issues have risen, and loneliness has become more apparent than ever with constant lockdowns, no nearby support bubbles and being unable to hug a family member.

But exactly how lonely has the UK become?

According to a survey of UK adults, taking place nine months into Covid-19 restrictions, one in four adults in the UK said they experienced feelings of loneliness.

The levels of loneliness, according to the Mental Health Foundation, ‘were higher in young people, people who are unemployed, full time students and single parents’.

Andrew Bridgewater is a chartered psychologist and mental health coach. He tells Metro.co.uk that Covid-19 has triggered feelings of loneliness in many people who may not have experienced this before.

Andrew tells us: ‘As a species, we are wired for connection, and while people differ in their need for social contact, we all need it to some extent.

‘We know that solitary confinement is a severe form of punishment for anyone.’

Loneliness, he tells us, is both a cause and a consequence of depression and low mood disorders.

He continues: ‘Without social contact, we are more likely to engage in overthinking, and negative thoughts.

‘Just talking to someone else can reveal to us the extent of our overthinking, and the other person doesn’t need to say anything – just listening deeply is often enough.’

Senior therapist Sally Baker, who is still seeing her clients online, suggests there has been an increase in low mood amongst her clients, presenting with a range of issues as the pandemic’s anniversary rolls around.

She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Humans are social animals and the restrictions imposed by the pandemic have caused an increase in loneliness amongst many people. Even those living in households with other family members are experiencing loss and feeling lonely with not being able to socialise with friends or extended family.

‘There’s also been a noticeable shift in the enthusiasm to attend group Zoom calls as the feelings of isolation bite deeper.

‘People have come to realise online meetings if anything increase their sense of disconnect and loss, leaving them yet more lonely and depressed.’

Conversely, Mollie Quirk, 23, says that thanks to social media, she’s not feeling lonely at all.

She tells us: ‘The pandemic and the multiple lockdowns we’ve been thrown into have meant many people are at home, lonely, and scrolling on their phones.

‘This has given me, a socially awkward young woman, the opportunity to meet like-minded people and connect more deeply than I would have done in real life.

‘The internet, social media and my phone have been saviours. I don’t feel as lonely as I usually would because I have so many more friends now.’

If you are feeling lonely, Andrew adds that right now, the best thing someone can do to seek support during these times — realistically — is to talk about how you’re feeling with someone who will listen and not judge.

He says: ‘They don’t necessarily need to give you advice, just provide a caring and listening ear. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, such as regular sleep problems, you must seek professional advice immediately, and the first person to contact is your doctor.

‘We all need to make a special effort to connect with others at this time.

‘Being physically disconnected from loved ones and friends means reaching out in a call, letter, text or some other message just to show we care and are thinking about them.

‘Many people are feeling less inclined to do this at the moment after spending hours on video meetings for work. So take a break from the video meeting and just call , text or write to start with.’



The Year That Changed Us

The past year has been… weird, to put it lightly.

12 months of living with Covid-19, from the restrictions on our old way of life, to going in and out of lockdown, to being confronted by the reality of death and illness, is bound to have radically changed us.

We may never go back to the way we were before.

Our series, The Year That Changed Us explores all the ways we’ve been impacted by the pandemic and how these effects will stick with us long-term, from our friendships to the nation’s mental health.

You can read the full series here.

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.


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