Learnings on youth loneliness from the Great Winter Get Together

Su Moore, Chief Executive of the Jo Cox Foundation, shares how the Great Winter Get Together shone a light on the issue of youth loneliness. 

Did you know that 94% of young people aged 18 – 24 say that they felt lonely in the last month? It’s very possible that you didn’t – when we asked the general public, only 8% identified that this was the loneliest age group, with 58% thinking it was the over 60s. 

We wanted to use this year’s Great Winter Get Together as a platform to shine a light on the issue of youth loneliness, and to work with young people to ensure that our campaign was adapted to help them tackle the issue. We’ve learnt a lot through this approach, and wanted to share some of the things we’ve discovered. 

We need to encourage young people to open up about their experiences, and support those around them to start this conversation

“I don’t think young people talk about feeling lonely enough. We’re encouraged to only share the positive sides of our lives especially on social media. I don’t think a lot of us have the language to be able to talk about being lonely. We are so connected to one another through the internet sometimes it can be difficult to describe that feeling of isolation.” – youth panel member

In our research, over half of the young people we consulted said that talking to friends and family was the most effective way of addressing loneliness, so, even if it feels a bit awkward at first, reach out to the young people you know. Just a genuine question ‘really, how are you?’ can start an important conversation.  

Awareness raising campaigns work in addressing loneliness…

But there’s also much more we can do. A third of young people think we need to have more resources at schools and colleges, and 43% want support in reaching out and making new connections. What they are looking for, and what we should be doing more of, is providing advice on how to address feelings of loneliness when they arise.

Awareness raising around youth loneliness does have an important role to play – both in making young people feel more comfortable about sharing their feelings, but also in targeting older people to make them aware of what younger people are experiencing, and how to support them. 

We need to use different tactics and different language

‘Loneliness’ isn’t always the word that young people associate with the feeling, in our polling we found that  ‘isolation’, ‘separation’ and ‘ignored’ were the words that resonated with them the most. When thinking about our language, we also need to plan how we reach young people – social media is obviously key, but remember, as one young person we spoke to said “we only have a six second attention span!”. Content aimed at engaging young people should be designed with this in mind. Rather than directing young people to download a PDF toolkit, for example,  we made sure the key information was all provided in succinct posts on our social media channels, so there’s no need to click off the app!

Most importantly, involve and engage with young people

As part of planning and evaluating our campaign, we convened a youth panel who gave us invaluable insights on what would be most effective. Going forwards, we know we will continue to work with young people in this way when developing future campaigns. If you’re an individual, reach out and talk to the young people in your life. If you’re an organisation and want to address this issue, make sure you engage young people in the planning of your work. It’s absolutely vital to hear the voices of those we want to support. The Tackling Youth Loneliness website is a great place to start with resources to support this. Our own Connection Coalition Youth Loneliness network is also developing a simple resource of tips from members on how to involve young people and sharing practice in their meetings. There’s more information about how to get involved in this network below. 

This work was made possible by the DCMS via their Loneliness Engagement Fund. The Lead Minister for Civil Society and Youth Nigel Huddleston said:

“Loneliness is something that can affect us all but what we have seen over the last two years is an impact on young people in particular.”

“The Great Winter Get Together will continue to be an important forum for bringing people both young and old together, and something I would encourage everyone to get involved in if they’re finding it tough on their own.”

To find out more about the Connection Coalition Youth Loneliness Network, you can connect with Su Moore (@Sumorre) and Zoe Cumberland (@ZoeCumberland) on the Hub or contact hello@connectioncoalition.org.uk 

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