There has been a three-fold rise in the proportion of participants who are ‘always or often’ lonely, from 7% in 2020 to 20% in 2021, according to new longitudinal research by Clarion on the impacts of COVID-19.
It is the latest report in a long-term study tracking the experiences of Clarion residents, and draws from a survey of almost 400 residents in May this year.
The levels of loneliness are “a real concern” and highlight the importance of working with residents to “reduce social isolation and build connections within communities.”
A new ‘Lend an Ear’ befriending service has been launched to tackle loneliness among residents by matching them with volunteers, and a #meinmind service gives residents free access to an online support platform.
In addition, Clarion staff have taken part in a ‘Wellbeing 10’ initiative where - during visits to residents’ homes - they spend an extra 10 minutes to see if they can pick up on any signs of loneliness.
Whilst a significant number of residents are struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation, the report describes how there are also “some green shoots of recovery.”
It states: “More residents tell us they are coping well, and they have started to be optimistic about their finances and feel more secure in their jobs.”
Fears of major job losses have yet to materialise, with the proportion of residents in work only slightly lower this year (29%) than at the height of the pandemic (31%). Some 94% feel secure in their jobs and 72% are ‘optimistic’ about their finances over the next six months.
However, challenges remain. The proportion of residents reporting worsening physical health rose from 22% to 37% between summer 2020 and summer 2021, whilst those with deteriorating mental health increased by 25% to 29% over this period. And one in five (19%) residents are having to use credit cards or borrow money to pay for food and other essentials.