Dame Kelly Holmes Trust has today published new research highlighting the severity of loneliness amongst young people in the UK.

The national charity, which uses world class athletes to transform the lives of young people facing disadvantage through mentoring, conducted the study in partnership with YouthSight across a sample of 1,013 young people aged between 16 and 24.

The findings underlined the prevalence of the issue, with 72% of young people reporting that they had recently felt lonely or isolated. The research also found a number of key trends based on demographics and behaviours:

  • Young people not currently in employment, education or training (NEET) were almost 20% more likely to feel lonely than those not categorised in this group.
  • Loneliness is gendered, with young women (75%) more likely to suffer than young men (69%)
  • Young people in Scotland reported the highest levels of loneliness in the UK (84%)
  • Young people in the North of England (78%) experienced higher levels of loneliness than those in the South of England (71%)
  • Only 31% of young people who stated they had recently felt lonely or isolated reported being motivated or resilient. This is compared to 70% of young people who said they never felt lonely.

Loneliness amongst young people has been shown to increase the likelihood of poor physical and mental health, the risk of becoming involved in criminal activity and reduce future employment opportunities.

Speaking about today’s findings Emma Atkins, CEO at Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, said: “It’s always sad around this time of year to hear about the growing problem of loneliness amongst the elderly, however today’s announcement shows it’s also a major issue for young people within modern society.

“We work with thousands of young people facing disadvantage every year and a large amount of them suffer from isolation and loneliness for a diverse range of reasons. It’s a spiral that’s very difficult to escape from, especially as society becomes increasingly disconnected and we witness a decline in large aspects of community.

“Perhaps the most revealing aspect of the study was the disparity between loneliness and attitudes such as confidence and resilience. It’s essential that support is available to help young people realise these attitudes, which are crucial to developing emotional wellbeing and the vital social networks needed to live a positive life.”

Hannah, 24 from Medway in Kent is someone who has spoken openly about the issue and the personal challenges she faced growing up:

“It was a real issue in my life. For an awful long time I had zero confidence, no real motivation and would pretty much lock myself away in my room at every possible opportunity. The longer it went on the worse it actually got. It became harder to make friends and even interact on a basic level, such as communicating with a shop assistant. When my anxiety was at its highest levels it sent me into a pretty deep state of depression.”

Hannah took part in Dame Kelly Holmes Trust’s Get on Track programme, where she was mentored by Olympic Triple Jumper Michelle Griffith-Robinson. She believes that mentoring is a crucial lifeline for young people suffering from loneliness:
“I was very lucky to receive mentoring from Michelle, however not every person in my position gets the chance to work with someone like her. It really did change my outlook on life and what I could achieve. It taught me to cope with my anxiety and if had a setback I was able to deal with it and come back fighting. Most importantly though it made me feel like I was worth something again.”

Steve, 19 from Manchester is another young person who suffered from loneliness for over a year before taking part in one of the Trust’s mentoring programmes:

“It was a really strange period of my life because I used to be very outgoing and confident in meeting new people and taking part in things. I can’t really say exactly what triggered it but gradually I began to remove myself from friends and family; spending more and more time alone.

“As it went on I began to feel increasingly removed and demotivated to do almost anything. It kind of happened without me really realising it. It was a bad time in my life and I’m extremely grateful that I was given the chance to turn things around with the help of a mentor.”

The research forms part of Dame Kelly Holmes Trust’s ‘Loneliness Appeal’, which aims to end loneliness for young people across the UK. For more information about the campaign and to show your support visit www.damekellyholmestrust.org or text LONE08 £5 to 70070 to give £5 today