Rising loneliness levels across Falkirk blamed on lockdown and social distancing

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Around one in 15 people in Falkirk 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 6.7% of people in the area aged 16 and over said they felt lonely “often” or “always”.

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However, the ONS cautioned that this was based on a small sample of the local population.

Around one in 15 people in Falkirk felt lonely over the winterAround one in 15 people in Falkirk felt lonely over the winter
Around one in 15 people in Falkirk felt lonely over the winter

A further 26% of those questioned said they felt lonely “some of the time”.

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.

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

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.

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“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.

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.

The survey also revealed that, of those in Falkirk who said the pandemic had affected their well-being in the last seven days, 61.2% 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”.