One in three in our region feel lonely - and young people are worst affected
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New data has revealed that the East of England is the loneliest place to live in the Britain - with younger people more likely to be affected than older people.
The figures released today from a poll conducted by YouGov on behalf of charity Turning Point found that there are more people who feel lonely, around 37%, than anywhere else in the country.
The poll also found there are more people in our region who withdraw from others to avoid rejection, around 34%.
The number of people who are drinking to cope with their loneliness in the East of England has been revealed to be slightly above the national average at 13%.
Nationally, the poll found that almost a third of Britons feel lonely all or some of the time, with women more likely to feel lonely than men.
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Younger millenials and teenagers were found to be more affected by feelings of isolation than any other age group, with 54% admitting they get lonely.
Tim Holder, from Suffolk Community Foundation, said a combination of problems were contributing to loneliness within the county.
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"The heightened percentages in our region are due to a mixture of issues which create the perfect storm," said Mr Holder.
"In Suffolk alone wages are considerably lower than the national average. Many live rurally, which is much more expensive with huge issues for people trying to access key services like education and health.
"We have a much higher percentage of older people living in the county than the national average, many without adequate pension provision. 83,000 people in Suffolk currently live in households existing on less than 60% of the average family income.
"All of these challenges added together are having a negative impact on mental health in people of all ages and the ability, especially for those living rurally, to be able to afford to travel and socialise or live in the types of housing that promote well being generally.
"To improve things we need to understand the issues, shine a light on what solutions are working and, crucially, bring national government, the public sector, charities and communities much closer together to find ways to improve the future for everyone."
Jan Larkin, head of psychology and a consultant clinical psychologist at Turning Point, said: "Social connections, companionship and friendship play a vital role in everyone's wellbeing and quality of life.
"It's worrying that so many feel lonely, and some are turning to alcohol for comfort. They risk becoming even more isolated by relying on drink.
"More commitment is needed from the government to addressing the issue. A cross-cutting strategy on alcohol-related harm would enable currently overstretched services to do more. They would be able to reach out to people in the early stages of dependency and help them make a change."
Loneliness is due to be one of the first topics to be debated in the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star Open House series of discussions.
A debate on the topic will take part in our Ipswich newsroom on May 7.
Our journalists and representatives of local organisations will come together in a one-hour conversation on the growing issue of loneliness and social isolation in Suffolk, as well as its effects on mental and physical health.
Tickets for the event can be found here.