"A crisis of Belonging revealed": New organisation for social connection launches with biggest national poll on Belonging ever conducted in the UK

London, March 27, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) --

  • A ground-breaking new poll of 10,000 Brits examines social isolation and how to foster a sense of belonging in the UK
  • Women aged 18-24 report feeling lonely more than the general population (51% vs. 29%), as do renters (40% vs. 29%)
  • One in three (33%) older people reported that they don’t feel they belong strongly to their neighbourhood
  • 14% of people with a disability have no close friends while one in five feel lonely often or always

The UK’s first comprehensive survey of British people’s sense of Belonging, polling 10,000 people from every corner of the country, has today been published by the Belonging Forum.

Young women in the 18-24 age bracket, people living in rented accommodation, and those living with disabilities were revealed as the groups who feel a comparative lack of belonging.

An alarming number of people aged 65 and over in the UK report a critical lack of social support, including a sense of belonging to their neighbourhood and having no close friends.

The Belonging Forum will be making all the findings of this unique poll public and is calling for grassroots action to address the “crisis of belonging”.

The Belonging Forum is also working on a Charter for Belonging, a ‘living document’ which will identify a small number of key initiatives targeted at the most impacted groups. It wants to hear ideas from the public and to convene and work with charities, businesses, and government to help deliver change.

The intention is for these initiatives to be highly practical, of low or no cost, and to give way to other initiatives once they have been achieved. This will ensure the Charter for Belonging is able to respond to specific needs and is fully aligned with changing events.

The Belonging Forum, an initiative from the Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness, and its work is grounded in the principle that there are four pillars of Belonging – connections between People; connection to Place, a positive relationship with Power, and an understanding that we all need to be driven by Purpose.

Kim Samuel, Founder of the Belonging Forum and author of On Belonging: Finding Connection in an Age of Isolation, said:

This ground-breaking study shows that older people and the young face different—but equally troubling—problems.

“Loneliness is worryingly common among the prior and the latter often feel unsettled and unsatisfied with their friendships.

“I believe online bullying and unrealistic expectations drawn from social media do a lot of harm to the young. And older people need the energy and vitality of younger people in their lives.

“A part of this is that too often nowadays, different generations do not interact, but they naturally complement each other, can teach each other, and help fulfil each other's needs. 

“We also need to start a debate about targeted ways to help those in rented accommodation and young women feel like they belong. These two groups, according to our data, disproportionately feel the effects of social isolation and loneliness.

“Belonging is our birthright. It’s also a helpful framework for building a more resilient society.

“If you work with a charity or community group that wants to work with us—please reach out.”

Just 43% of renters (including private, local authority, and housing authority) say they know their neighbours, compared to 69% of those who own their homes outright.

Private renters (excluding local and house authority renters) are more likely to say they are dissatisfied with their friendships (65% vs. 76%) and are less likely to report ‘feeling happy yesterday’ (62% vs. 75% of those who own outright).

Meanwhile, 30% of all renters felt unsafe walking home in the dark compared to 20% of those who own their home; 40% felt lonely compared to 29% of homeowners; and 65% of renters said they were satisfied with their friendships compared to 76% of outright homeowners.

Meanwhile, a significant 40% of women aged 18-24 report feeling unsafe walking alone at night compared to just 15% of men overall. Furthermore, 72% of men aged 18-24 report being satisfied with their lives, with this dropping to 64% of women in the same age bracket.

Young women were also less likely to share the same values as their neighbours, with 7% less reporting this than men of the same age range.

The poll also revealed 45% of people with a disability reported feeling anxious yesterday, compared to 36% of the general population, and 51% felt satisfied overall with their life compared to the general population.

A quarter reported never going to a pub, bar, or coffee shop with their friends and only 63% of those with a disability feel safe walking on their own near their home after dark compared to 72% of the general population.

Additionally of concern, one in three (33%) older people reported that they don’t feel they belong strongly to their neighbourhood. One in ten (11%) reported having no close friends, compared with 4% for people aged 18-24.


About the Belonging Forum 

  • The Belonging Forum was created by the Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness, a global organisation that has been working with partners around the world to understand and address social isolation and belonging since 2017.
  • The Belonging Forum is focused on convening partners and the public to generate simple, practical solutions that have cross-party support in the UK.
  • It argues that if belonging is enshrined in policy and decision-making, social problems associated with isolation—such as poor mental health, apathy, and poorly integrated communities – will be reduced.
  • It seeks to persuade policy makers and regulators to act and convene charities, not replicate their work, and inspire grassroots action.
  • The aim is to use this landmark research to provide the basis for a Charter for Belonging which will outline simple, proven initiatives communities can implement to address social isolation and build belonging in key groups, including students, younger women, renters, older people and people with disabilities.
  • The polling can be found in a report — The Belonging Barometer— here.

Notes to editors:

  • The research was carried out by Opinium on behalf of the Belonging Forum and surveyed a nationally representative sample of 10,002 UK adults The survey was conducted between 24 November and 13 December 2023.
  • The research also included multi-level regression and post-stratification (MRP) analysis of several questions, giving insights into them at a parliamentary constituency level across the UK.
  • The Belonging Forum is appealing for input from policymakers, the public and partner organisations on what effective policies to include in a Charter for Belonging that will address the pressing problems identified by the research. Contributions are welcome at belonging@pagefield.co.uk


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