The Great Get Together and tackling loneliness

The Great Get Together and tackling loneliness

Last weekend (23-24th June), people across the UK held events in their communities as part of The Great Get Together, inspired by the late Jo Cox MP. The Great Get Together aims to encourage people to spend time together to celebrate that “we are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us”, as Ms Cox said in her maiden speech in the House of Commons.

Southwark had its share of events, including the Bankside Open Spaces Trust Great Get Together around the Union Street area. It was a fabulous event and included artists, musicians, dancers and human towers. There were stalls and bouncy castles and face painters and a beach! The event also provided an opportunity to share with others a written slogan that represented individuals views on what the day meant to them.

While people in the UK spend most of our leisure time with others, we spend 29% of it – an average of 100 minutes per day – on our own, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) analysis that was published over the weekend.

People aged 25 to 54 (who have the least leisure time available) and children spend the least time by themselves. People aged 65 and over spend an average of 37% of their leisure time – 2 hours and 39 minutes per day – on their own. But they’re more than twice as likely to chat to their neighbours as those aged 16 to 24.

What does this time by ourselves mean for our well-being? People who spend time alone are not necessarily lonely: loneliness can be influenced by a range of personal circumstances.  It happens when we have a mismatch between the quantity and quality of social relationships that we have, and those that we want. Children are the only age group who enjoy the time they spend alone significantly more than the time they spend with others.

Nevertheless, being on one’s own when being alone is not by choice or is unwelcome can have a significant negative impact on health and wellbeing. The current evidence base tends to measure loneliness in terms of frequency, and it shows that people who feel lonely most or all of the time are more likely to suffer ill health and to generate significant costs for society.

The Government’s Loneliness Strategy is a welcome but long overdue first step in tackling the long-term challenge of loneliness. The Strategy is to focus on what government can do to reduce the risk of people feeling lonely most or all of the time.

The Government recognises that being lonely will vary from person to person, and so one trigger point will not necessarily affect everyone the same way. However, these are still useful points for the Government to be aware of, as times when preventative or early action could help people.

Tackling loneliness survey:

The Government is asking for organisations with expertise and experience in tackling loneliness to provide views on the Strategy framework. You can view the survey here. Responses close on 20 July.