New research has found that adults across the UK have been suffering from loneliness long before the lockdown measures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic came into force. In a study commissioned by Kaspersky, four-in-10 (42%) of Brits who say they have felt lonely during the pandemic have actually felt less lonely, or the same way, than they did before it began. With social distancing restrictions currently in place, people are turning to technology to help them stay connected with their loved ones and feel less lonely through the coronavirus crisis.
As many more people are spending the majority of their time at home to follow government social distancing guidelines, they have become further reliant on technology. Nearly three quarters (71%) of adults in the UK agree technology is helping them feel connected to friends or family who live far away, increasing to 77% of Millennials.
Over a third of Brits (35%) surveyed agree that the social restrictions brought in as a result of COVID-19 have made them feel more comfortable using technology to connect with others than they did before. This figure rises to 51% of Millennials.
Psychotherapist and founder of Psyched Kathleen Saxton believes that while technology is helping people during the pandemic, loneliness is the greatest epidemic to befall humans and will remain long after the current crisis.
She comments, “Whilst at times we can be rather bedazzled by the technology on offer to us over the last few years, it is fair to say that we have been grateful for their existence in recent months. It is clear to see that even though technology can never replace human contact, it has gone some way to addressing the loneliness everyone has been feeling during this rather torrid time. Maybe the robots are coming – but maybe they are bearing positive gifts.”
The resulting isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic has also further impacted people’s mental health and put additional pressure on all areas of society. In fact, over half of Brits (53%) – who have felt lonely at times during the COVID-19 crisis, have been feeling lonelier than they did beforehand Perhaps surprisingly, Generation Z has been found to be the loneliest age demographic. 73% of people in this age group admit to feeling lonely during ‘lockdown’, at least some of the time (since April 2020), compared to just 31% of the Silent Generation . While older generations are often prioritised by governments and communities to ensure they are not left isolated, younger people and those of working age could be missing out on the support they need.
However, while technology is clearly proving to be a benefit, not everybody is as tech-savvy as they would like to be. Nearly half (46%) of people who say they are lonely all of the time wish they were more confident in using technology, as it would help them feel less lonely.
“I don’t think we have ever seen such a rapid mass adoption of technology before. Typically, technology tends to be woven into our lives more gradually, but the current pandemic situation has forced people who previously shied away from technology to adopt it. Some services, like video calling or online grocery shopping, that were once used occasionally have now become essential. While its great news that those once fearful or dismissive of some technologies are now reaping the benefits, it’s important to be mindful that people’s awareness and attitudes to online risks may well lag behind their understanding of how to use technology. We need to ensure they are staying connected safely. When used safely, the online and digital tools we have at our disposal can offer a great remedy to loneliness,” comments David Emm, Principal Security Researcher at Kaspersky.
“We are fortunate that we can stay connected online during this period and we are likely to see these habits continue even after any remaining social distancing measures are lifted. It’s important to create secure online habits from the outset to make sure that we do not fall victim to cybercrime at a time when coronavirus is making us more dependent on technology.”
Further findings from Kaspersky’s latest research are available in the full Find Your Tribe report online.
As technology is having such an important impact on helping people who may be lonely, Kaspersky is taking steps to help people stay safe online – especially during the ongoing pandemic. Information, including guides on smartphone protection and securing your digital life, are available via the company’s blog.