“Nearly half of disabled people chronically lonely”

New research from disability charity Scope suggests that working age disabled people, particularly young adults, are experiencing chronic loneliness.

In a representative survey of 1,004 disabled people the charity found that:-

  • Two-thirds (67%) of disabled people have felt lonely in the past year, but this jumps to three quarters (76%) for working age disabled people.
  • 45% of working age disabled people are chronically lonely, saying they always or often feel lonely. If extrapolated to the general population that equates to 3 million working age disabled people in the United Kingdom.
  • A shocking 85% of young disabled adults – 18-34 year olds – feel lonely.

As a result, over half of working age disabled people who have felt lonely in the past year said they experienced depression (62%) and anxiety (58%); and half (49%) experienced stress.

Lifting the lid on disability and loneliness, the charity found on a typical day one in eight (13%) disabled people had under half an hour interaction with someone else.

Scope believes a number of factors play a part in why so many disabled people feel lonely, including:

  • Life costs more if you’re disabled, and disabled people say this makes it harder to socialise and see friends and family.
  • Underfunding in the social care system makes it harder for many disabled people to get basic support to live the lives they choose.
  • Parents of disabled children report that they do not have access to community activities, leading to a sense of isolation.

Carly, 35, was diagnosed with autism in her early 30s and is a full-time carer, advocate and film maker: 

“It’s not just older people who experience loneliness. I often felt like I was watching life as a spectator, rather than being a part of what was happening around me.

“I still feel lonely. I try and do a lot of voluntary work, but if I want to make friends I have to actively go out and find them. It’s hard for me to meet people who are like me, so life can be very isolating sometimes.”

Mark Atkinson, Chief Executive at disability charity Scope, said:

“Our new research has exposed the hidden reality of many disabled people’s lives.

“It’s scandalous that nearly half of disabled adults experience chronic loneliness, and the vast majority of young disabled adults are lonely.

“We know from the emotional support, advice and information we provide to disabled people and their families how important it is to feel connected, and be part of society.

“The government must ensure that disabled people get the financial and social care support they need, and they are not left isolated and cut off from society.

“In order to do this, we urge the government to develop a cross-departmental disability strategy. They need to ensure that the investment we make in social care and benefits provides a decent standard of living for disabled people, rather than allowing loneliness and isolation to thrive.”

Matt Pearce