One in 10 in Sheffield lonely during Covid second wave

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Around one in 10 people in Sheffield felt lonely over the winter as the nation endured the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, new figures suggest.

Mental health charities have called for people's mental health and wellbeing to be made a priority in the recovery from Covid-19.

An Office for National Statistics survey conducted between October 14 and February 22 found 10.1% of people in the area aged 16 and over said they felt lonely “often” or “always”.

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A further 16.3% of those questioned said they felt lonely “some of the time”.

One in 10 Sheffield people reported struggling with loneliness during the second lockdown.One in 10 Sheffield people reported struggling with loneliness during the second lockdown.
One in 10 Sheffield people reported struggling with loneliness during the second lockdown.

The ONS said a year of lockdowns and social distancing had led to increasing feelings of isolation among some groups.

In an earlier survey carried out between April and May last year, around 5% of adults across Britain said they felt lonely “often” or “always”.

That increased to 7.2% between October and February.

Areas with younger populations and those with higher unemployment rates tended to see increased levels of loneliness, the latest research found.

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The feeling was also more pronounced in urban areas than rural locations.

But places with strong local businesses and adult education fared better on average.

“The widespread disruption of the pandemic has highlighted that loneliness can be driven not solely by the absence of friends and family, but also the lack of face-to-face connection in the workplace and in the communities around us,” said Lucy Schonegevel, associate director for policy and practice at the charity Rethink Mental Illness.

Developing community schemes and support groups could help people recover from the pandemic, she added.

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Ms Schonegevel also called for more social prescribing, whereby health professionals can recommend activities such as gardening or sports to improve people’s wellbeing, as a possible alternative to more traditional treatments.

She said: “These initiatives can provide a lifeline to people experiencing loneliness, particularly for those living with mental illness who may be more prone to feeling isolated.”

The survey also revealed that, of those in Sheffield who said the pandemic had affected their well-being in the last seven days, 36.7% attributed this to being lonely – across Britain, the average was 38.6%.

The ONS said young people were also more likely to suffer from this form of “lockdown loneliness”.

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Tom Madders, director of campaigns at mental health charity YoungMinds, said young people have experienced loneliness and isolation as Covid-19 has limited their social lives, education, or led to job losses.

“It’s important that young people know where to go to get support for their mental health if they are struggling and that they can access help as soon as they need it,” he added.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, we’d like the Government to introduce a national network of early intervention hubs, with one in every community, where young people can find mental health support alongside advice on education and employment.”

This comes after high numbers of NHS staff in Sheffield also reported struggling with mental health issues.

Thousands of staff reported ‘feeling unwell’ due to stress, and the NHS Trusts in the city put in place measures to help staff deal with this.

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