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  • Charlotte Miller + Emily Abbott

Could Mixing with People from Different Age Groups Cure the Loneliness Crisis?

Intergenerational England Urges All Ages to Work Together to Reduce Loneliness and Bridge the Generational Divide

 

Around half of UK adults admit to feeling lonely – and the number is getting higher. This growing problem all around us risks millions of people suffering social isolation, mental health problems and an alarming 26% increased threat of early mortality.* And a significant cause is a disconnect across age groups.

 

Despite the misconception that loneliness is most common in older people, 16–24-year-olds are the loneliest age group, with many leaving the family home and their support network.  

 

Over 181% of UK adults (and 82% of 18–24-year-olds) agree that mixing with people of a different age group can reduce loneliness and more than three quarters of us believe it can improve our mental health or general health and wellbeing, according to a new survey commissioned by the charity. 


“Children across the UK currently have only a 5% chance of living near someone aged 65 or over. In addition, over the next 30 years more people than ever will live on their own,” says Emily Abbott, co-founder of Intergenerational England. “Action needs to be taken now to bring those most at risk of loneliness together. Creating opportunities that enable these different age groups to mix significantly reduces loneliness and its impacts. 


“But it will do more than that. Uniting generations, enabling them to teach and learn from each other, will also give us a healthier, more productive, and socially and economically richer society.” 


Intergenerational England champions the power of generations working together to help reduce loneliness, ill health, ageism, and the housing crises. We are advocating for us to work together to bridge the generational divide, stop generational stereotyping and address social, economic and health challenges. 


The new research conducted by YouGov, during Global Intergenerational Week 2024, revealed that only 17% of adults across the UK find themselves in contact with people from a different generation in community spaces, with that figure falling to just 14% in the 55+ age category. One of the most common places for mixing with someone of a different age group is at work (47%). 


“Many of the divisions we are seeing in society are age related from loneliness to political views and workplace productivity and the housing crises,” says Emily. “Age and generational stereotypes are dated and no longer relevant to today’s society. People are working well into their 70s and last year a 90-year-old took part in the London Marathon. Contrary to popular labelling every 12–27-year-old isn’t missing school or work and spending their days on TikTok."


The survey also found that 90% of women and 83% of men agree that the cross-generation contact can increase mutual respect and more than 8 in 10 UK adults feel it can reduce age-based stereotypes. 


New social, economic and health challenges are arising due to the global population demographic shift. This is creating an unstable political landscape with age being the greatest demographic divide especially evident when it comes to voting. For the first time ever, the population of individuals over 65 years will outnumber those under 15 in the WHO European Region in 2024. This shift in population demographic means new social, economic and health challenges. By uniting, generations can work together to address these challenges. 


In the UK the birth rate has dropped to the lowest level for more than two decades and people are living longer. On average three years has been added to our lives over the same period. The average life expectancy in the UK in 2024 is 81 with women living around 83 years and men living for 79 years. People are joining the workforce later and remaining for longer. Those working over the age of 70 has increased by 61% in a decade.**  


Comparing attitudes to the impact of intergenerational connection across genders, women were more attuned to benefits across all areas, with 90% believing it can generate mutual respect (compared to 83% of men). 


When it comes to geographical comparisons, the survey found that adults from Northern Ireland had the most positive attitude towards intergenerational interaction with an overwhelming 96% believing it can create mutual respect; 91% agreeing it can reduce feelings of loneliness and 91% of Northern Irish adults believing it can reduce age-based stereotypes. 


“We are thrilled that the majority of adults across the UK agree that intergenerational contact can benefit so many aspects of our mental and general health,” says Charlotte Miller, Emily’s fellow co-founder of Intergenerational England. “The challenges we face as a country effect people of all ages. By being age diverse, promoting community spaces and coming together we can generate mutual respect. By acting now, we can help improve the quality of life for older people and build a future where younger people can look forward to still living healthy, independent lives when they too grow old.” 


 

* (Campaign to end Loneliness). 

**(Rest Less). 

 

All figures, unless otherwise stated are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2077 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 25th -26th April 2024. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+). 

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