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Loneliness having serious mental health impact, study shows

This news post is 9 months old

The MHF has called for people to come forward and help break the stigma attached to loneliness.

High rates of loneliness are impacting the mental health of people in Scotland - many of whom feel ashamed or unable to talk about it, new research has warned. 

A study released on Friday by Mental Health Foundation (MHF) for Mental Health Awareness Week shows hundreds of thousands of adults in Scotland experience loneliness that negatively impacts our mental health. 

In a survey of 1,000 adults in Scotland commissioned by the charity, a quarter of people say they felt lonely some or all of the time in the previous month.  

Almost one third (31 per cent) said feelings of loneliness had a negative impact on their mental health yet more than half (51 per cent) would hide their feelings of loneliness from other people. 

The results suggest that hundreds of thousands of people’s mental health is harmed by loneliness, yet more than one third (39 per cent) of those surveyed say they would never admit to being lonely, and 27 per cent say they felt ashamed about being lonely.

MHF has led Mental Health Awareness Week across the UK for the last 22 years, with this year’s theme being ‘loneliness’, chosen because loneliness can damage mental health and feelings of loneliness surged during the lockdowns. 

A new report exploring the issue, All the Lonely People: Exploring the Hidden Realities of Loneliness and Mental Health, was also published today.

Julie Cameron, associate director of the MHF in Scotland, said: “Our research shows that loneliness is affecting hundreds of thousands of people across Scotland.  

‘This is very concerning as long-term loneliness can potentially lead to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, and it is also associated with increased thoughts of suicide.  Yet, so many of us are embarrassed or ashamed to admit when we’re feeling lonely. 

“We need to tackle loneliness as a public health issue with actions from governments, communities and individuals to help prevent mental health problems.  We must address the stigma of loneliness and have open conversations to let people know that they’re not alone with their feelings.  

“Local and national governments can do more to ensure that everyone has access to quality community spaces including green spaces where there is opportunity for people to connect in a meaningful way.”

The charity say loneliness is not about the number of friends we have, how much time we spend on our own, or something which happens when we reach a certain age. It’s the feeling we experience when there is a mismatch between the meaningful social connections we want and those we have. 

The MHF is inviting people to share their experiences of loneliness and how it has affected their mental health using #IveBeenThere to help to open up conversations, increase understanding and reduce stigma about loneliness. 

Ms Cameron added: “Engagement in the community can help tackle loneliness and prevent poor mental health.  

“We need to ensure that our communities are equipped with all that they need to reduce loneliness and support healthy wellbeing.  

“This should include local authorities investing more in community-based groups and spaces to increase opportunities for people to connect, particularly for people at higher risk of loneliness.”



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