By Nick Crofts, Co-op Foundation CEO 

For the past five years, our charity, the Co-op Foundation, has been working with partners UK-wide to tackle youth loneliness. 

In this time, we’ve awarded more than £6.5m in grants to local charities and helped to build networks and resources so youth workers can co-operate and get better at tackling loneliness. We also launched our annual Lonely Not Alone campaign to tackle stigma. 

Lonely Not Alone is back on 14 October and you can find out what’s planned in this blog

New research we’ve launched this week shines a light on what work we have left to do to help young people tackle loneliness and improve their mental wellbeing – two issues we’ve found are intrinsically linked. 

This research follows the Co-op’s ‘Shadow on a young generation’ report that found children as young as 10 feel permanently disadvantaged by the pandemic. 

Our findings 

Our ‘One Small Step’ report has found that:  

  • There are 1.9m chronically lonely young people in the UK who feel lonely often or always – an increase of almost 400,000 from August 2020
  • Young people who have ever had free school meals are twice as likely to be chronically lonely compared to those who haven’t (20% compared to 10%)
  • 85% of chronically lonely young people say loneliness has negatively impacted on their mental wellbeing, while 70% say it’s made them less able to perform well in school or work
  • Three quarters of all lonely young people say loneliness makes them feel more anxious or worried about things
  • Lonely young people want to help others – 61% say feeling lonely has made them want to help others who may be lonely, too

Supporting mental wellbeing is a big part of Co-op’s vision, Co-operating for a Fairer World, alongside access to food and education and employment for young people. Understanding the impact that loneliness has on these three missions will support our future response. 

Lonely Not Alone 

Our Lonely Not Alone campaign is co-created with young people, to create a kinder society and tackle the stigma of youth loneliness.  

We’re excited to launch year three on Thursday 14 October and we’d love young colleagues to get involved by sharing the one small step they’ve taken to tackle feelings of loneliness on our campaign website. Read more about what will happen in this blog

We hope that by sharing stories openly and anonymously we’ll help to build understanding and empathy around youth loneliness, and encourage young people to find ways to tackle the issue for themselves. 

We’ll share more ways to get involved at launch. Please bookmark our campaign website and follow on Twitter for updates.