Health and Wellbeing
The Loneliest Regions in the UK
Approximately 25% of people living in the UK have reported that they feel lonely either some of the time or all of the time (2019). As the British public emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic and navigates a cost-of-living crisis, Oak Tree research shows that loneliness is on the rise.
The festive season is around the corner and while this is a time of joy and celebration for many, it has been reported that around 1.5 million older people are more lonely at Christmas than at any other time of year. Sadly, 1 million older people will have Christmas dinner alone, with no one to exchange gifts and cards or pull a cracker with. At Oak Tree, we speak to people every day all over the UK impacted by loneliness. We understand first-hand the issues people face due to social isolation and the associated health risks.
1 million older people will have Christmas dinner alone
To understand the key contributing factors and the people most affected by social isolation, Oak Tree has utilised 2022 data from the Office for National Statistics to establish the Loneliness Index. Within the Index, you’ll be able to find out where your region ranks and the top factors contributing to loneliness.
The Loneliness Index Reveals the Loneliest UK Regions
According to the UK government’s ONS study, low satisfaction scores for health, high divorce rates, large populations of people aged 65 and older and smaller households all contribute to increased levels of loneliness. In addition to these factors, we have also taken into account these key ONS data points when calculating the Loneliness Index scores.
- How worthwhile people feel
- Happiness levels
- High Life Satisfaction levels
- Anxiety levels
- Mental wellbeing
- Unhappiness in relationships
- Depression levels
- Being within a community
Find out below where your region ranks. For a full comprehensive breakdown of scores and categories, see the table at the end of this article.
|Ranking||Region||Loneliness Index Score|
|10||Yorkshire and The Humber||52.1|
The UK’s Three Loneliest Regions
London is famed for its world-class culture, fashion and history so it may seem unusual at first glance that this hub for innovation and creativity could be so lonely. However, studies show that Londoners are the most likely to be affected by severe loneliness.
London has the highest score for depression on the Index, followed by Wales and the North East. London’s depression score is an astounding 40% higher than the lowest score, found in Northern Ireland.
Overall, 8% of Londoners are reported to experience severe loneliness, although some specific groups are disproportionately impacted. Nearly one in five (18%) of deaf and disabled Londoners are affected by severe loneliness. This is also true for 18% of low-income Londoners. With systemic accessibility still a work in progress, and shrinking spare incomes due to the cost of living crisis, it’s easy to see why these two groups are more severely impacted than any other group.
2. North West
The North West scores consistently high across each of the categories of the Loneliness Index resulting in an Index score that positions this region in second place for the loneliest region of the UK. Reports show that lack of travel and accessible infrastructure could be responsible for low sentiments throughout the UK and North West. Earlier in the year, the government awarded £5 million of funding for pilot projects that will be used to discover how transport can be used to alleviate loneliness. Living Streets secured funding for their Walking Connects scheme. This project aims to encourage walking every day as a social activity and identify barriers to walking for older people, such as a lack of accessibility for mobility scooters and wheelchairs.
3. South East
London’s lonely neighbour, The South East came in second place behind the capital region in categories of; worthwhile, happiness, life satisfaction and anxiety. In 2021, ONS data revealed that Eastbourne had the highest rate (8.85%) in the UK of people who had reported feeling “often or always lonely”.
The UK’s Least-Lonely Region
According to the Loneliness Index, the East Midlands is the least lonely region of the UK, followed closely by Northern Ireland. The East Midlands has the best scores in the categories of life satisfaction, low anxiety and community. Nevertheless, they ranked third worst in the category of happy relationships. In June, a study by Rightmove showed that unemployment rates are some of the lowest in the UK at just 2.7%. Whatsmore, house prices are also some of the lowest in the UK. With more people in employment and lower priced property, it’s no surprise that people are feeling more satisfied and less anxious.
Once people reach the age of 75 and over, they are at a higher risk of becoming lonely. According to Age UK, more than two million people in England over 75 live alone and worryingly, more than a million older people can go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.
Social isolation in older age can be explained by a few different factors. For example, disability or illness, no longer being the hub of their family, retiring and leaving the workforce, or the death of a spouse or a loved one. As a society, we have a responsibility to look out for the most vulnerable and ensure that we are mindful of the barriers in place that make social connections inaccessible.
If you or a loved one has been affected by loneliness, help is out there. Oak Tree has provided a list of resources that are here to support you, should you need them.
Comprehensive Breakdown of Loneliness Index Scores
|Ranking||Region||Worthwhile||Happiness||High Life Satisfaction||Low Anxiety||Mental wellbeing||Unhappy Relationships||Depression||Community||Total|
|10||Yorkshire and The Humber||67.11||67.11||72.04||64.96||75.92||5.19||22.24||42.41||52.1225|