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It starts with hello: A report looking into the impact of loneliness in children, young people and families

The impact of isolation and loneliness is often viewed through the prism of old age. This report clearly shows that that is not the whole story, showing the impact of loneliness on children, young people and families.

The consequences of long-term loneliness are now widely recognised. In young people, there are clear correlations between loneliness and poor mental and physical health, and between loneliness and lower academic attainment. The personal consequences of loneliness are powerfully voiced in the stories of young people and parents throughout this report.

“ So many people in this world, yet no one will listen or understand.” Joe

  • Loneliness can be experienced at any age: Research with pre-school children found that more than one-in-ten say they are lonely and unhappy with their social relationships.
  • One-in-five children aged seven to 12 say they are lonely sometimes or often.
  • Four-out-of-five adolescents report feelings of loneliness at some time, and almost a third describe these feelings as persistent and painful.
  • In a survey on student mental health, loneliness was ranked as the fifth most important out of ten ‘grand challenges’ faced by university students in the UK.
  • Action for Children’s recent poll of over 2000 parents found that more than half had experienced a problem with loneliness, with a fifth feeling lonely in the last week.

Certain children, young people and families may be particularly vulnerable to loneliness. This report looks at the experience of those most at risk, including children who experience neglect, young people in care, disabled children, young parents and parents with mental health problems.

We also explore how modern communication and social media can be both the cause and cure of loneliness. Nearly half of 11-16 year olds find it easier to be themselves online than face-to-face8 and three-in-five said they would be lonely if they couldn’t talk to friends via technology. And yet in a recent survey 4% of 11-25 year olds said they had been bullied on line in the last month.

Finally we look at what support can be put in place for those experiencing loneliness – from what we can do as individuals to how central and local government can ensure the right services are in place in the future.