Londoners feel lonely but strongly connected to their city, survey reveals

London is the UK’s loneliest city, but its residents also feel strongly they belong to the city, a report has revealed. 

The Belonging Forum‘s Belonging Barometer report asked more than 10,000 people across the UK about their sense of loneliness, community belonging and life satisfaction. 

The research shows that while 35% of Londoners report feeling lonely, 68% feel like they strongly belong to the city or county they live in, more than any other region.

Belonging Forum founder Kim Samuel said: “It’s extraordinary the strength of connection Londoners have to the city.

“They might feel a stronger sense of belonging to the city for its diverse culture and status as a global city, which fosters a sense of pride. 

“The presence of numerous support networks and communities within London helps residents feel more connected to both their local area and the larger urban and national identity.”

Living in the centre of where politics happens might also play a part, as 27% of Londoners think the government represents their views and interests well, compared with15% in the whole of the UK.

But despite this, loneliness is still a common feeling for Londoners, with nearly one half (48%) demanding more community spaces for people to meet. 

Samuel added: “While London is full of so many opportunities and new experiences for young people, despite being surrounded by millions of people it can be an isolating city to move to.” 

Housing strongly affects the sense of isolation, with 40% of renters across the country reporting feeling lonely compared to 29% of homeowners. 

Those who are renting are also less likely to know their neighbours, which for Samuel is exacerbated in London where people move out often and form fewer long-term relationships.

She said: “It is concerning that 39% of Londoners speak to their neighbours every week, compared to 45% of the rest of the UK. 

“This shows that Londoners have fewer touchstones to even give a friendly wave to in their street. 

“Getting to know your neighbours has many benefits including the ‘neighbourhood watch’ effect of improved safety and security at home.”  

Less frequent communication also prevails in personal lives – only 71% of Londoners speak to their partner every day compared to 90% in the whole country.

Vauxhall is the loneliest constituency

The polling was also conducted on a constituency-level basis, revealing that the constituency of Vauxhall and Camberwell Green is the loneliest in London, with 41% regularly feeling alone. 

In contrast, people from constituencies on the outskirts of London, including Wimbledon and Twickenham, report feeling less lonely.

Samuel explained possible factors impacting residents in Vauxhall or Lewisham may include socioeconomic disparities, higher population density and fewer community spaces, whereas south west London constituencies like Richmond benefit from a lot of green spaces.

She said: “The link of nature and green spaces to feeling the right to belong cannot be overstated.”

Judith, 24, a resident in Vauxhall, said that although she doesn’t feel lonely, she doesn’t spend too much of her free time in the area.

“It [Vauxhall] is not really targeted at people my age.

“There are not many music events going on, apart from mainstream clubs which I don’t like, or just a normal pub.”

Music venues are important contributors to the sense of belonging across the whole country, with 68% of Londoners thinking more local festivals and events would benefit their area. 

Vauxhall. Photo: Laura Zilincanova

Samuel called for councils to take initiatives that encourage neighbourly interaction, such as investing in community centres, organising intergenerational local events and creating more public spaces.

As women aged 18-24 reported feeling significantly more lonely than the general population, she also recommended the London Lonely Girls Club, founded by a graduate who moved to London and struggled with loneliness herself. 

Since the first Loneliness Minister was appointed in 2018, the government has invested over £80 million in tackling loneliness.

Featured image credit: Laura Zilincanova

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