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Will poor mental health become the next global pandemic?

In today's fast-paced and digitally connected world, loneliness and social isolation have emerged as significant concerns affecting individuals of all ages. Studies have consistently shown that these experiences can have a profound impact on mental health and overall well-being.

Covid exacerbated the issue through lockdowns, though there are many reasons why individuals may feel lonely and/or isolated.


The current cost-of-living crisis isn’t helping matters, either. A lack of disposable income for many households has seen some people cutting back on leisure activities and other ‘unnecessary’ expenditure. In tandem, hospitality and leisure outlets, and places housing hobbies/pursuits, have been forced to increase their prices to ensure their own bills are met.

It’s a unique set of circumstances that have exacerbated the issue of loneliness for a lot of people.


The government doesn’t appear to see this as a current or future issue, and yet:

  • Within the next few years, two million people aged 50 and over in England are projected to be lonely if efforts to tackle loneliness are not made (Age UK, 2018)

  • A study by the British Red Cross reveals that over nine million people in the United Kingdom feel alone often or always feel lonely

  • Loneliness has been associated with a 40% increased risk of dementia (Sutin, Stephan, Luchetti, & Terracciano, 2018)

  • Research shows that every £1 invested in tackling loneliness can save £3 in health costs (Mcdaid, Bauer, & Park, 2017)

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that adolescents and young adults report feeling lonely more often than older adults, which could signal that the problem will only increase in the near future

  • The Campaign to End Loneliness reports that lacking social connections can be as damaging to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day

  • Living rurally in the UK does not automatically equal social isolation. In fact, a report from the WHO indicates that social isolation affects people across all cultures and countries, with higher rates among older adults and individuals living in urban areas

Loneliness refers to the subjective feeling of being alone or disconnected from others, while social isolation involves a lack of social contact or meaningful relationships. Both experiences can contribute to poor mental health outcomes, including depression, anxiety, and diminished overall well-being.


Some experts have warned that poor mental health will be the world’s next global pandemic. A lack of public investment in frontline social services and mental health support provision has left just the third sector trying its best to prevent such a situation. However, in the current economy, charitable organisations are faced with the challenge of keeping their own heads above water.


The government needs to do more and invest more, that’s a fact.


For anyone who’s struggling with loneliness, it can be hard to break the cycle; however, the problem may not be as overwhelming as it seems at first. A few small steps may lead to greater opportunities to reduce your feelings of isolation.

Concentrate on one thing at a time.

Time To Talk (https://www.timetotalkuk.org.uk/) offers a fully private and confidential Facebook Community. It’s highly interactive and fully moderated, and it provides a safe place for people to talk about their mental health in confidence with others who understand. In addition, they run events, regular clubs and they hold a library of resources.


Time To Talk’s community enables consistent support, which is otherwise lacking in the mental health care package.


They recommend considering any or all of the following if you’re lonely and feel like you’re simply existing on the outskirts of daily life.

  • Strengthen existing relationships

  • Foster open and honest communication with friends and family

  • Maintain face-to-face interactions whenever possible

  • Reach out to old acquaintances and reconnect with individuals who have drifted away

  • Look at joining groups that align with your personal hobbies or passions

  • Attend community events, workshops or classes to meet new people and expand your social network

  • Volunteer for causes that resonate with your personal values, which may provide opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals

  • Prioritise self-care activities that promote well-being, such as exercise, mindfulness, and hobbies

  • Set realistic goals and engage in activities that bring a sense of fulfilment and purpose

  • Practice self-compassion and cultivate a positive mindset. You’re not alone in how you feel, we promise you

Of course, we understand that this list may sound terrifying or stressful to apply. If so, we recommend that you contact the Time To Talk community in the first instance. Talking to someone who understand what you’re going through could give you the strength and motivation to want to push forward, out of your current comfort zone.


Use technology mindfully

While technology can exacerbate feelings of loneliness, and whilst the internet can demonstrate the worst of human behaviour, it can also be a loving, inspiring place, and a powerful tool for social connection. It can also be a source of emotional support and, used in the right way, it can help you find a sense of belonging. Use social media platforms, online communities, and messaging apps to connect with others who share similar interests.


Lastly: when to seek professional help

If your feelings of loneliness and isolation persist or intensify, seeking professional help is essential. Mental health professionals can provide guidance, support, and evidence-based interventions to address underlying issues.


Stay well. Stay connected. Stay positive.


Diane Hall is the founder of Evolve3, a social enterprise that puts its efforts into ensuring a fairer world. It helps small charities, businesses and individuals ‘level up’ and evolve from their current situation.


Offering funding strategy, bid writing training, community fundraising solutions, marketing support and debt counselling, they can be found at www.evolve3.org.uk.



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