New research reveals youth loneliness on the rise

Wednesday 5 October 2022

Our latest research (October 2022) has found that 95% of all young people feel lonely – a 6% increase in the past 12 months. 

Co-op Foundation researchers spoke to 2,000 10 to 25-year-olds from across the UK for ‘A Friend in Need’. We also found that more than half of lonely young people (55%) said not having the money to take part in activities was already having a negative impact on how lonely they feel. 

We believe this raises concerns about how the cost-of-living crisis will further impact young people in the coming months, as parents and guardians tighten the purse strings and wages for young workers fall in real terms.  

Other findings from ‘A Friend in Need’ include: 

  • Only 24% of young people say they believe youth loneliness is treated seriously by society – 20% decrease from November 2021. 
  • 62% of lonely young people say feeling lonely makes them lose confidence in themselves. 

Despite the difficulties they face, our researchers also found young people were stepping up to help others more than ever.

83% of young people say they’ve now taken an action to help friends when they feel lonely, a 9% increase from 2020. In addition, 59% of lonely young people say loneliness makes them more likely to want to help others 

Our Lonely Not Alone campaign, relaunching today, is hoping to harness this solidarity and caring by helping young people share stories of loneliness and positive messages of support to their friends in an online digital universe. 

Young people help to co-design Lonely Not Alone each year. They say loneliness feels like space – vast, empty and cold. But by sharing stories and positive messages online, they’re able to feel less alone and improve their mental wellbeing. 

Loneliness stories are split into constellations of shared experiences. Stories in the ‘sloth constellation’ include those from young people who don’t have the money to take part in activities. ‘Unicorns’ feel different from their friends. 

Nathan, 18, is a musical theatre student who grew up in Cirencester. He helped to co-design this year’s campaign. He said:

“When I was at school, I was the only openly gay person in my year, and there weren’t many other people like me. Being part of Lonely Not Alone, and connecting with so many other young people who have experienced loneliness, has given me such a strong feeling of being understood.  

“By visiting the Lonely Not Alone universe, young people can add their own stories to their constellation and read those shared by others. Hearing other people’s stories through the campaign makes me feel listened to, heard and accepted. That’s the same experience we want for other young people and why we want them to join in.” 

 Nick Crofts, Chief Executive of the Co-op Foundation, said:  

“The cost-of-living crisis is another blow to young people who’ve had to overcome so much over the past two years. Young people will need help from parents, guardians, teachers and employers alike as the UK tightens the purse strings through a difficult winter. I hope the Lonely Not Alone digital universe can be an added source of support to help boost youth mental wellbeing in communities and tackle loneliness. Young people might be lonely, but they’re not alone.” 

Lonely Not Alone is a Co-op Foundation campaign created in partnership with specialist design agency, Effervescent. It is part of the Foundation’s work to improve youth mental wellbeing and deliver on Co-op’s vision of ‘Co-operating for a Fairer World’. 

Contact Sophie Beresford, Co-op Foundation Campaign Manager, for more information or to request interviews with spokespeople: 07977 159737

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