| 5.1°C Belfast

Young and old facing epidemic of loneliness in Northern Ireland

Close

Concerned: youth worker Craig Wilson said young people of all backgrounds complained of loneliness

Concerned: youth worker Craig Wilson said young people of all backgrounds complained of loneliness

Concerned: youth worker Craig Wilson said young people of all backgrounds complained of loneliness

Northern Ireland's young people are struggling to cope with acute loneliness, a youth worker has claimed.

The warning follows research which found that more than two-thirds of 16 to 24-year-olds feel lonely more often than a number of other age groups.

Some 36.8% of people in that age bracket reported feeling "more often lonely", which is comparable with 41.3% of people aged 75 or older and 41.1% of those aged 55 to 64, according to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra).

The age group with the highest percentage of respondents who reported hardly ever feeling lonely was 35 to 44-year-olds, followed by 65 to 74-year-olds.

Craig Wilson, a Prince's Trust team leader at Oasis Caring In Action who works with young people who are not in education, employment or training, said loneliness was a huge problem.

"Over the last three years we've seen a steady rise in the number of young people presenting themselves as suffering from social isolation or feelings of loneliness," he added.

"In this age of social media, they feel less need to socialise in person with their peers.

"However, they also recognise that they don't develop the relevant social skills they will need in later life."

East Belfast-based Mr Wilson said he dealt with youths from across the city, from both comfortable and underprivileged backgrounds.

"Young people have been coming here for the last four years from everywhere and they're all presenting with the same issues," he explained.

"Their self-worth is very low and they have no confidence.

"Some of the youngsters I meet haven't spoken to another human being for months because they've become so isolated.

"Loneliness has become a much bigger issue today than it ever has been.

"The main problem is that now everything is done online. Kids order food online, they can do their benefits online and they have friends online.

"Often, interaction with other people just doesn't happen. It's a huge problem - and it's getting worse."

Among Nisra's key findings was that approximately one in every 20 adults in Northern Ireland reported feeling lonely "always" or "often".

It also emerged that women were more likely to be "more often lonely" than men.

The group most likely to feel "more often lonely", on 61.3%, was people whose partners had died.

Meanwhile, approximately two-thirds (66.2%) of respondents who described their general health as "bad" or "very bad" felt more often lonely.

In comparison, just over a fifth (21.3%) of those who said they were in "very good" health felt the same.

Eddie Lynch, the Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland, said that Nisra's latest figures "reinforce the loneliness epidemic that older people are facing".

Belfast Telegraph