World Mental Health Day: Why it's hard to talk about loneliness
As anyone who has tried to do some quick shopping at Oxford Circus on a weekend can tell you, London is full of people. You see it every morning on the packed tube carriages, in the queues at the supermarket and trying to book a space at Flight Club any night of the week. So why is it one of the loneliest cities in the world?
Loneliness is increasingly recognised as a serious mental health issue with recent research indicating that it increases the risk of premature death on par with heavy smoking or obesity.
It’s also an issue that affects young people more than you might expect. A survey by YouGov this year found that young people aged 18-24 are the most at risk, with 75% reporting they have felt lonely.
So what makes London a lonely place, and what can we do as individuals and communities to fix it?
Why do people get lonely?
Every mental health issue carries its own stigma and loneliness is no exception, so let’s get something out of the way up top.
It’s completely normal to feel lonely.
Making connections is hard, friends and partners can let you down and it’s hard to talk about it. Research shows nearly three quarters of people said that when they felt lonely, they didn’t tell anyone despite most having someone they could count on.
It’s especially tricky today, when social media has turned everyone’s apparently awesome life into online currency. All you see when you open Instagram is everyone’s best moments, so if they seem to be having fun and you’re feeling alone, it's not hard to think that it’s your fault.
So what is it about London?
Feeling lonely is often associated with times of transition, such as a change in living circumstances, or moving to a new place. These can negatively affect your social connections (friends, family, colleagues) and leave you feeling isolated.
Young adults are the most common group to move to London, following the lure of jobs and opportunity, so it’s not surprising that it can be hard to build new connections.
We’ve covered how to make friends in the city, but putting yourself out there can still be intimidating. And even if you arrive knowing people already there’s plenty that can get in the way of creating and maintaining strong, or even casual relationships in the capital.
One of the biggest issues is the size of the city. Our networks, be they work, friends or family, tend to be spread out over a large area. That means every social occasion has to be balanced with the time, cost and inconvenience incurred.
Faced with the prospect of 40 minutes on the Bakerloo line on a cold Autumn evening after a day at work to see a friend, it’s pretty easy to choose Netflix alone for the sake of convenience. And in the long term, these choices can turn into habits that leave you feeling less connected.
The Role of Community
Humans are built for community - we crave social interactions and networks. We start off with micro-networks of families, into school and then university. At each stage, there is a structure that supports sociality.
When it comes to finding your place in London though, it can seem like the support drops away. Research suggests the most common place for Londoners to make friends is work, but combining the professional and social worlds can present its own challenges.
This is key, because it’s relationships that help us feel connected. A study last year showed that people feel loneliest when living in areas where there is no sense of community - they are less connected to the people living closest to them.
That idea of community is one of our foundations at Lyvly. A home is many things – a comfy bed, a warm meal, a proper wifi connection – but it’s also a feeling. A feeling of belonging, of having found your people. We strive to find people who can come together to enrich each others’ lives. So when you come home, it’s more than just a roof over your head; it’s a place you belong.
We also make sure that there is active support to help our members create connections that last.
One of the hardest things for people who feel lonely is knowing who to ask for help. Whether it’s advice or a simple chat to catch up, we know the power of words can make a difference. One of the aims of our community is giving you access to people, members and people at HQ, who want listen when you need them to.
In our homes and neighbourhoods, community is key. We try to select members that share our values and want to contribute to the Lyvly experience, hopefully making people feel at home from day one.
We’re also building a team of ‘neighbourhood leaders’ who are going to power the future of our neighbourhoods, putting time into making them thrive and uniting members.
We want to celebrate every new face that joins, so we hold new member drinks every month to introduce new arrivals to each other. We even help our members to create their own events and interest groups to widen their social circle.
Just this month our members have already organised climbing trips, bike rides and art viewings. Whatever you’re into, you can find someone to do it with.
And if you ever need more help, our fantastic Member Experience Team are always looking for new ways to help members make the most of this city. Because everything is easier with a helping hand.
Join A Community
We want to make everything about London simpler, from the house hunt, to the bills to finding things to do. But none of this matters if you feel like you have no one to share it with. So our approach starts with great people.
Everyone deserves to be connected and acknowledged and that can start with finding the right place to call home. If you feel lonely here, or want to make your move to London smoother then why not look into joining our community?
In a city full of people, we can help you find the right ones for you.