Revealed: The loneliest places in Suffolk and Essex
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Suffolk and north Essex's loneliest places have been revealed as more people than ever join befriending schemes.
Residents in Colchester, and Ipswich had the highest percentage of residents saying they were feeling isolated with more than half saying they were "occasionally, some of the time and often/always lonely" in a survey by the Office for National Statistics.
The local rates are in line with other local authority areas surveyed by the ONS, from October 2020 to February 2021, which also found urban areas are more lonely than rural areas.
Babergh, West Suffolk, Tendring, and East Suffolk residents were considerably less lonely with 40% of Babergh residents saying they were "hardly ever lonely" and 26% saying they were never lonely.
Mid Suffolk, Colchester, and Ipswich also reported the highest percentage of people asked saying they were "often/always lonely", reaching 7% to 8% of those surveyed. Around and less than 6% of Babergh, East Suffolk, West Suffolk, and Tendring residents agreed with this statement.
A total of 46.4% of Mid Suffolk, 38.7% of Babergh, 31.4% of Ipswich, 33.4% of East Suffolk, 29.4% of West Suffolk, and 27.8% of Tendring and 37.3% of Colchester residents said they were lonely in the last seven days when asked.
To combat loneliness, Suffolk residents have increasingly reached out to people in their community struggling.
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Community Action Suffolk says Ipswich went from no good neighbour groups to five during the pandemic and claimed its buddy-up scheme - where you befriend a person - now has 64 links across the county.
Suffolk County Council has also given more funding to help the Covid Support Buddy project.
Chris Abraham, CEO for Community Action Suffolk, said: “We have seen first-hand the enormous difference that community organisations are making across the region and how so many have stepped forward to help support those in need.
"We are delighted to have the opportunity to further support those groups to share their time and skills within their communities.”
Mental health charity Suffolk Mind has this advice for those struggling with feelings of loneliness: try talking to family and friends and those you have lost contact with, use the Suffolk PenPal service from Suffolk Mind, listen to the radio, tune into podcasts or take a walk in a public space, and volunteer.
You can also reach out for support from Suffolk Mind on 03001116000.
For more information on help, see healthysuffolk.org.uk/covidhub.