Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Two in five disabled people experience loneliness

Disabled people are significantly more likely to report feeling lonely, than the general population, with findings showing that two in five of people living with disabilities experience loneliness, compared to 29% of the general population.

The poll from the Belonging Forum spoke to 10,000 people across the UK, examining social isolation and asked how to foster a sense of belonging. It found that 14% report of disabled people report having no close friends at all.

A quarter reported never going to a pub, bar, or coffee shop with their friends, with average anxiety levels higher for people with disabilities. 45% of Disabled people polled said they were feeling anxious compared to 36% of the general population. Interestingly in this election year, two-thirds of Disabled people felt left out of political systems and political discussions.

Kim Samuel, Co-founder of the Belonging Forum, said: “Our research—the first of its kind in the UK—identified acute issues drawn along lines including age, home ownership, and gender. But one of the groups being hit the hardest is people with disabilities. In people with disabilities, whether they are physical, developmental or mental-health related, being socially connected is associated with higher levels of self-rated mental health, health, and life satisfaction.

“Belonging is our birthright. It’s also a helpful framework for building a more resilient society. We call on our public, private and third sectors to take decisive action to build and strengthen vital connections within and between our communities.”

Urgent action needed to address loneliness

The Belonging Forum intend to use the findings to form the basis of a call-to-action to the public, which they hope can be used to create a series of policies and initiatives they will campaign for, known as the Charter for Belonging. This Charter will include a diverse set of ideas and initiatives developed in partnership with leading organisations and people on the frontline.

Dan White policy and campaigns officer at DR UK said: “We know that Disabled people were disproportionately affected by social isolation and loneliness during the pandemic, but the dramatic impact of loneliness revealed in this report must surely lead to calls for urgent action from the government.”

“The Government needs to ensure that Disabled people have the incomes, services and support that we need to enable connection and participation,  these are basic human rights.”

“What is also needed to combat loneliness and isolation is a focus on making changes to existing social structures and physical environments so that they are not disabling. We need to continue to raise awareness and foster inclusivity to combat loneliness for all individuals, especially Disabled people.”

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