Five years ago, the government addressed the importance of social relationships to health and wellbeing by launching the world’s first Loneliness Strategy in England. The Strategy outlines how a combination of underlying factors, big life events, and personal thoughts and feelings can cause loneliness. Even before the pandemic and cost of living crisis, many Britons deemed existing social relationships as lacking – either in quality or in quantity – with between 5% and 18% of us feeling lonely ‘often or always’.
But surely not mums, right? The people we often define by their ever-present children – how could they be lonely? Well, a survey by Channel Mums found that since having kids, 90% of mothers feel lonely, and 54% feel friendless. Having a child is a big life event after all. A demanding new routine, a swift repurposing of finances, and a lack of support can often leave mums isolated. And this may compound for Black mums who are more at risk of experiencing loneliness, but can face greater barriers accessing help.
It would be amiss to ignore the neoliberal culture Britain has embraced since the Thatcher years. A person who works fantastically hard and takes no hand-outs is pretty much the British Ideal. Not to mention the boom of internet careers that have bolstered representation around the autonomous, “self-made” individual – including the resurgence of the “woman who can have it all”. The rhetoric that success or fulfilment doesn’t require people, further stigmatises loneliness. None of this is sustainable under capitalism, and is demonstrably taking its toll on the UK.