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Norwich named one of the worst cities for loneliness in the UK

PUBLISHED: 07:00 25 September 2017 | UPDATED: 18:01 25 September 2017

A man and a woman offer comfort and support. Picture: Time to change/Newscast Online

A man and a woman offer comfort and support. Picture: Time to change/Newscast Online

Time to change/Newscast Online

Norwich has been named as one of the worst cities for loneliness in the UK.

Coping with Loneliness typed into search page on Google homepage. Picture: TIME TO CHANGECoping with Loneliness typed into search page on Google homepage. Picture: TIME TO CHANGE

More than one in two people – 65pc – surveyed said they had felt the effects of loneliness at some point, with 73pc saying they had suffered with it for more than six months.

Research by the Campaign to End Loneliness and the London School of Economics (LSE) also found that nine out of 10 people believe loneliness is now more likely in old age than ever, as people feel the effects of retirement and bereavement.

But 81pc of those people do not think the wider community cares about older people feeling lonely.

MORE: Could gadgets such as Amazon’s Alexa help keep older people in Norfolk independent?

Bill Borrett, chairman of Norfolk County Council’s adult social care committee, said he was sorry to hear those statistics, saying that residents of the county were friendly and welcoming.

Bill Borrett. Picture: Matthew Usher.Bill Borrett. Picture: Matthew Usher.

That was also born out by the research, which found 67pc of people - and 76pc of people aged 16 to 24 - want to help address the loneliness crisis.

But Mr Borrett said loneliness is a “very serious problem - more serious than people realise”, adding: “I don’t think anyone should say they don’t have time to help. It is something that is beholden to all of us.”

The county council is part of the In Good Company campaign being run by more than 20 organisations where shops, pubs, parish council and other community organisations are recognised with a new mark for helping to prevent isolation.

It says that no-one should have a lonely day if they don’t want to.

“One of the things that’s evidently shown is that people who are lonely have far worse outcomes and have far more health problems,” Mr Borrett said,

A man and a woman offer comfort and support. Picture: Time to change/Newscast OnlineA man and a woman offer comfort and support. Picture: Time to change/Newscast Online

“An intervention just by talking to someone means they don’t have to have a more serious intervention later on.”

MORE: Fears ‘senseless’ cuts will hit vulnerable people in Norwich’s sheltered housing

Laura Alcock-Ferguson, executive director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, said reasons cities score highly for loneliness could be down to factors such as limited human contact, poor public transport links and a lack of activities throughout the week.

“It is significantly impacted by what happens in your local area,” she explained.

“For example there is often a lot happening during the week but not at other times. Bank holidays and Christmas can become incredibly isolating.

“Some of the causes of loneliness in cities are about transport, especially at weekends for those who no longer have a driving licence.

“Additionally in cities, there’s a big cause around fear of crime and just not wanting to leave the house in the afternoon or winter.”

She stressed that loneliness is “completely subjective” and that some people, such as creative types, may feel the effects of loneliness less than those who do not prefer periods alone.

She defined loneliness as “someone who is not happy with the quality or quantity of the contacts in their day”, adding: “Ultimately that differs for people.

“It’s a very personal thing – only you can tell me if you’re lonely.

“Some are more used to spending time on their own than others – for example a creative type likes more time on their own and we’re not trying to avoid time on your own, which is important to a lot of people.”

But with growing numbers feeling the effects, Mrs Alcock-Ferguson believes it is an “epidemic” that needs to be tackled.

“Loneliness is felt by almost everyone,” she said. “It is incredibly common.

“There is much to do to overcome loneliness. The huge stigma surrounding it is clear, which is slowing down efforts to combat it.

“This is isolating millions of older people - and with our ageing population, the epidemic of loneliness is growing fast.

“I don’t think it needs to be this way. If more people make loneliness part of their everyday business and think of more ways it can be overcome, it can be reduced and ended.

“In cities like Norwich that’s a challenge but there’s also a really huge opportunity in making people feel they really belong.

“We need to make sure it is seen as a main public health priority.”

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