Loneliness after Covid-19

With one in three adults experiencing loneliness during the pandemic, are Brits now making the most of seeing their nearest and dearest?

  • 3.7 million adults in the UK were chronically lonely in February 2021 
  • Post-pandemic 16% of people want to see their friends every day, yet just 10% manage to do so every week according to new research commissioned by TransPennine Express
  • 23% of people socialise with family members every week with getting together for a meal being the top pastime when they do 
  • Watching sport is the top social activity for a quarter of men 
  • Half of women love going for a meal with their friends 
  • TransPennine Express has an important party to play to help reconnect people across the North and into Scotland, with more people returning to rail

How has Covid-19 impacted loneliness? And as a nation are we making the most of our new-found freedom and seeing those closest to us to alleviate loneliness?

TransPennine Express (TPE) has set about trying to find out. As part of its partnership with the Campaign to End Loneliness, the train operator has surveyed 2000 people to discover if they’re seeing those closest to them, how often and the activities they enjoy most when they do.

As more people return to rail, the train company is playing an important role in helping connect and reunite people with friends and family, as well as encouraging its customers to stop and have a chat in a bid to help reduce levels of loneliness.

The research shows that 16% of people want to see their friends everyday post pandemic. Yet while a quarter of us think it’s more realistic to see our friends every four to seven days, just 10% make this a reality. We do however fare a little better with our families, with 23% of people sharing  weekly visits, with one in 10 people socialising with their family every day.

With up to a million more people becoming chronically lonely (describing themselves as often or always lonely) throughout lockdown – up to 3.7 million adults in February 2021 – and one in three people feeling some kind of loneliness during the pandemic, making the most of time with those closest to us has never been more important.

But how often are we actually doing it?

Most commonly people see others in their social circle once every two to three weeks. A quarter (23%) of people manage this, whilst for 21% of people it’s every three months or more.

As you’d expect the 16-24s are leaning on their social circle more, with 27% seeing their friends every four to seven days, compared to 20% for the 25-33s and 21% for those aged 35-44. For the over 55s, 28% manage time with their friends every three months or more.

So, what’s holding us back?

When it comes to seeing friends it’s work commitments (25%), Covid-based restrictions (21%) and expense (21%) that gets in the way. For failing to see family members the top reason is again work commitments (24%), followed by the distance to travel (22%) and Covid restrictions (22%).

In the UK, the weather even plays its part. One in five (20%) of us struggle to see our families because of the weather, while this also affects 16% of people when it comes to seeing their friends.

TPE also discovered that when we do see each other, it’s all about the food. Sharing a meal, whether out or at home, was the top thing to do with both family (52% of people) and friends (45%). This was followed by going for drinks (35%) or for coffee (30%) with our friends. With our families, spending time in nature is second behind food at 35%, followed by shopping for 27%.

Darren Higgins, Commercial Director for TransPennine Express said: “We saw first-hand the effect of loneliness on both our colleagues and customers during the pandemic. It’s for this reason why we see the importance of supporting the Campaign to End Loneliness. We’ve already implemented initiatives such as our chatty benches at our stations where anyone can share a quick chat, but we also wanted to highlight the importance of socialising with family and friends right now.

“We discovered that when men socialise together, sport plays a huge part with going to a football match the top thing to do for 15%, rugby for 5% and cricket for 4%. For women, going for a meal is the most popular activity with friends (53%), followed by a coffee (30%) and shopping (30%). Nature (18%), the theatre (10%) and tourist attractions (8%) are all popular with women too.

“Armed with this knowledge, we want to help people discover the best of our region and connect them with their family and friends in the process.”

TPE has also researched the top rated activities to do across the North West, North East, Scotland and Yorkshire and the Humber to help people continue to make connections.

With 12 cities including Newcastle, Durham, Middlesbrough, Carlisle, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds, York, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dunbar these are the top places that may soon become the favourite haunts for people across the North and Scotland to get together with those closest to them. Head to www.tpexpress.co.uk/explore-the-north-and-scotland/blog/2022/may/favourite-get-togethers to see each of the recommendations and discover more about TransPennine Express’ partnership with the Campaign to End Loneliness.