Campaigners have warned that failing to measure the problem of loneliness directly is masking the scale of its impact in the UK
New government data already suggests the UK may be one of the loneliest places to live in the Europe but without a population-wide measure, the Campaign to End Loneliness believes support to counter the issue will not be directed effectively.
Laura Ferguson, Director for the Campaign to End Loneliness, said: “Many people will be appalled to think that the UK is one of the loneliest places in Europe – but the simple truth is that we don’t even know how big this problem really is.
“Currently we only measure loneliness among those in care or caring for others. If you’re not in this group, we have no idea what problems you may be facing. This ignorance means that local authorities and charities don’t know where to put resources to make the biggest impact.
“The Government has said they are committed to introducing a wider measure for loneliness but we are yet to see any action. Loneliness has been shown to lead to profound ill health and if we don’t get a grip on this problem we are going to see the consequences in our hospitals and social care services.”
Britain is ranked 26th out of the 28 European Union countries by the proportion of the population who say they have someone on whom they feel they could rely if they have a serious problem.
The pattern emerges from a comparison of results from the UK’s so-called 'happiness' index and similar studies across Europe measuring aspects of people’s “wellbeing”.
Christian Guy, director of the Centre for Social Justice think-tank, added: "It is ironic in a sense because we are becoming ever more connected in the way that we can communicate.
"Different forms of technology mean that we may feel close to a lot of people but how superficial is the new social order we are creating for ourselves? How many friends on Facebook would we actually recognise if we passed them in the street?”
"There is something British about wanting to deal with problems yourself. There is sense that perhaps we internalise things a bit more, and men in particular think less about taking problems and crises to others and try to take it all upon themselves."