Record 22 million Brits are Lonely this Valentines Day

By Josh Nicholson, Senior Researcher, Centre for Social Justice

Record 22 million Brits are Lonely this Valentines Day

14th February 2024

Josh NicholsonThis Valentines Day is set to mark the loneliest year on record as over 4 in 10 adults admit to feeling lonely, equating to 22 million of the 16+ population. New analysis from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) released today has found that over 40% of British adults feel lonely on a regular basis. Rising loneliness has corresponded with a monumental shift in Britain’s relationship statuses and that, for the first time ever, less than half of the adult population are married.

Our analysis makes it clear that those in relationships, particularly those who are married, are the least likely to feel alone compared to those who are single.

Valentines Day is about treasuring the relationships we have with others. It goes beyond the celebration of romantic relationships. Indeed, analysis from the United States shows that ‘Gen Zers’ would much rather see friendship and self-love celebrated in public advertising than romantic relationships. Whilst there is much to be lauded in the value that ‘Gen Zers’ put on friendship, young people today are the loneliest cohort in society.

Analysis from the Community Life survey released last year showed that 62% of 16–24-year-olds felt lonely often/always, some of the time or occasionally. This compared to just 44% of those aged 75 and over. Loneliness is a juggernaut in the lives of young people today.

The CSJ is launching a new campaign to understand the neglected causes of loneliness in our society and how its damaging effects are felt most by those in poverty.

The campaign will highlight how simply trying to ‘manage’ loneliness avoids asking the hard questions and that a decline in family life and committed relationships (including through marriage) are at the heart of our societal loneliness problem.

Single people are on average almost twice as likely to be lonely than their married counterparts, 30 per cent to 58 per cent. The high levels of loneliness amongst single Brits is a major cause for concern, especially as more and more people are choosing to live alone. Nearly 1 in 3 households (30 per cent) are made up of one person, a figure that has increased over the last decade. Today, 8.3 million Brits live alone.

Married couples are also less likely to be lonely than cohabitating couples (30 per cent compared to 39 per cent), which suggests that there is something uniquely protective about the institution of marriage that risks being lost with its decline.

Marriage is not a panacea or a miracle cure for loneliness, but it is frequently neglected in research and policy circles. This is probably because marriage and family have often been unhelpfully politicised by those on both sides of the political divide, leading to a hesitation in the Westminster bubble to comment on it.

Ultimately, politics must be led by what matters to ordinary people up and down the UK. Family, whatever the shape and size, matters to people immeasurably. Marriage is one of the strongest predictors of loneliness we have. It is time the Government acknowledge and combat the root causes of the loneliness epidemic. The fact that marriage is not even given a single mention in the Government’s anti-loneliness strategy, despite all evidence pointing to its significant positive impact, is a scandal.

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