The UK is experiencing a loneliness epidemic.
Despite being more digitally connected than ever before, more of us are reporting that we feel alone a significant portion of the time.
And becoming a parent can make feelings of isolation even more intense.
New research, published today by Coram Family and Childcare, has found that over half (56 per cent) of parents with children under five, experience loneliness at least some of the time.
Wealth also plays a part in this – parents on the lowest incomes were much more likely to say they often feel isolated from others, than parents with higher incomes.
The study also found that the issue significantly affects more women than men, with twice as many mothers than fathers saying they often feel left out.
Younger parents aged 18-24 also felt more of a lack of companionship than parents aged 25-34.
Parents say that the time around the birth of a baby is a particular spike for loneliness – particularly if the mother or baby have health problems and are unable to get out of the house easily. But it often continues when the children are older but haven’t started school yet.
The report finds that loneliness can get worse before it gets better, improving when children reach school age. 18 per cent of parents whose youngest child is under one often feel left out, rising to 41 per cent of parents whose youngest is two.
But it falls to just 8 per cent when their youngest child is five.
‘Being a parent is a hard job and it’s even harder if you feel lonely or isolated,’ says Claire Harding, Head of Coram Family and Childcare.
‘We’re really concerned that over half of parents of young children feel lonely at least some of the time, and that it’s worse for low income parents.
‘We’re need proper investment to make sure all families can access activities for themselves and their young children, so that everyone gets the benefits of friendship and social support.’
The new research will inform Coram Family and Childcare’s new project, funded by the National Lottery Community Reaching Communities programme, to support groups of local parents to work together to combat loneliness while their child is young.
Focus groups conducted by Coram Family and Childcare with parents in five cities and towns revealed that parents felt the best way to combat loneliness and isolation is to take part in local activities with other parents.
Interestingly, more men than women said they were looking for ‘a safe space to discuss personal matters’, while more women than men wanted ‘activities where I do not have to admit I am lonely or isolated’.
Many of the parents also said that they were unable to access the kinds of activities that could have helped when they were feeling lonely.
For some parents, those activities did not exist locally or were at unsuitable times or locations, while some parents attended activities where they did not feel welcomed.
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