When was the last time you made a new friend? For more than half of UK adults (54%), it’s been a “long time”. Almost half (49%) say that their busy lives stop them from connecting with other people, with work (63%) and chores (65%) cited as the top reasons.
The poll, conducted by the Campaign to End Loneliness in partnership with YouGov, reveals that eight in 10 UK adults believe the UK is divided. However, eight in 10 (82%) of those who think there is a division also agree that small moments of connection, such as making small talk on the bus or smiling at people, can break down divisions.
Almost nine in 10 (88%) people agree that small moments of connection like these are a valuable way of tackling loneliness.
In response to the findings, the campaign is launching ‘Be More Us’, a nationwide movement to inspire connection, tackle loneliness, and bring people together through good, old-fashioned friendliness.
The latest results follow findings from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which found 5% of adults in England report feeling lonely “often” or “always”, with younger adults (those aged 16 to 24) more likely to experience loneliness than those in older age groups.
Sarah, 23, from Surrey, previously told HuffPost UK it’s when she leaves the office and goes back to her flat, which she rents alone, that the isolation hits. “Loneliness to me is the sinking feeling of knowing everybody else has somebody and I don’t,” she said. “I’m long-term single and living away from friends and family.”
Similarly Tommy Walsh, 85, found work staved off loneliness, but when he retired at 60 he suddenly found himself isolated. “I took early retirement to make the most of life and my free time. But sometimes I would find I had watched TV all day without realising,” he said. “I met another chap who had retired. He told me he had spent all of his time watching the gasometer on his street going up and down. I will never forget it because it was the moment that made me think, ‘I have got to do something’.”
Launching on 9 May, the ‘Be More Us’ campaign is designed to help people like Sarah and Tommy feel more connected to their communities. The campaign includes a website with tips on how to make small connections, while friendliness will be celebrated and encouraged on social media, using the hashtag #BeMoreUs.
Commenting ahead of the launch, Laura Alcock-Ferguson, executive director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, said: “Big national events, like the Olympics or the World Cup, give us an excuse to connect. The royal wedding is in 10 days and it’s the perfect way to start to Be More Us. Get involved with your community by going to a street party, or invite your neighbour who lives alone out for a drink. Let’s come together and Be More Us.”
Tracey Crouch MP, Minister for Loneliness, added: “I am committed to working with communities, charities and businesses to create a society in which everyone has the support they need, no matter what age they are. Small moments of connection are an important part of this, which why I am supporting Be More Us.”