Children’s and young people’s experiences of loneliness: 2018

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released new research on loneliness in children and young people.

Analysis of children’s and young people’s views, experiences and suggestions to overcome loneliness, using in-depth interviews, the Community Life Survey 2016 to 2017 and Good Childhood Index Survey, 2018.

Main points
Children (aged 10 to 15 years)
• 11.3% of children said that they were “often” lonely; this was more common among younger children aged 10 to 12 years (14.0%) than among those aged 13 to 15 years (8.6%)
• 27.5% of children who received free school meals said they were “often” lonely, compared with 5.5% of those who did not
• 19.5% of children living in a city reported “often” feeling lonely, compared with just over 5% of those living in either towns or rural areas
• Children who reported “low” satisfaction with their health said they “often” felt lonely (28.3%), compared with those who had “medium, high or very high” satisfaction (about 10%)
• Children who reported “low” satisfaction with their relationships with family and friends were also more likely to say they were “often” lonely (34.8% and 41.1%, respectively)

Young people (aged 16 to 24 years)
• 9.8% of young people said that they were “often” lonely
• Nearly half of young men reported that they “hardly ever or never” felt lonely, compared with 32.4% of young women
• Those reporting no long-term illness or disability were much more likely to say they “hardly ever or never” felt lonely (44.8%) than those with a long-term illness or disability (19.3%)
• Young people living in a household with other adults were more likely to say that they “hardly ever or never” felt lonely than those living in single-adult households (over 40% compared with 18.2%, respectively)

Qualitative research with children and young people found that:
• a range of predictable transitions linked to schooling and the move on from secondary education can trigger loneliness in children and young people
• children and young people described embarrassment about admitting to loneliness, seeing it as a possible “failing”
• practical, social and emotional or mental barriers to participating fully in social life and activities can also contribute to loneliness
• the intersection of multiple issues and triggers to loneliness, or more extreme and enduring life events such as bereavement, disability, being bullied or mental health challenges, may make it more difficult for children and young people to move out of loneliness without help
• their suggestions for tackling loneliness included: making it more acceptable to discuss loneliness at school and in society; preparing young people better to understand and address loneliness in themselves and others; creating opportunities for social connection; and encouraging positive uses of social media

To read the research, visit: www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/articles/childrensandyoungpeoplesexperiencesofloneliness/2018

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