A QUARTER of Britons haven't been hugged since pandemic began

A QUARTER of Britons haven’t been hugged since the first lockdown last March and 44% haven’t made a single new friend, survey finds

  • 25% of Brits haven’t been hugged in a year, while 37% haven’t in six months
  • Meanwhile, nearly half haven’t made a new friend in the last year
  • Researchers say there is ‘huge risk’ community spirit will be lost

One in four adults in the UK have not been hugged since the Covid pandemic began, according to new research.

A survey of 1,000 Brits in May — when social distancing rules were still in place — found a quarter had not had physical human contact since last March.

A further 37 per cent had not been hugged in six months.

Researchers also found six in 10 people have not made a new friend in the last six months, while 44 per cent had not done so for more than a year.

Brits have faced three lockdowns since March last year, ordering them to stay at home and limit contact with others except to shop for essentials.

Nearly 4million people in England were also added to the shielders list after they were identified as being at high risk from the virus. 

And data suggests a quarter are still limiting their contact with others because of confusion over when they can return to normal and fears they could catch the virus. 

It comes after most remaining Covid restrictions in England were lifted on July 19, bringing an end to social distancing and limits on meeting others. 

One in four adults in the UK have not been hugged for more than a year, research has found. Pictured: Twins Minnie and Patrick Speed, 92, hug for the first time in more than a year at the Salthouse Haven care home in Hull, Yorkshire,

An ‘epidemic of loneliness’ among young people has been worsened by Covid, a report reveals today.

A fifth of under-35s say they have one or no close friends, three times as many as a decade ago, according to research by think-tank Onward.

Millennials, those born from the 1980s to early 1990s, are also far less likely to chat to neighbours or join in group activities than previous generations.

But researchers say this is because they lack spare time and security to put down community roots, rather than being anti-social.

The report urges the Government to create a national civic service to encourage 18 to 35-year-olds to do voluntary work, with the reward of a partial student loan write-off for doing ten days a year.

Will Tanner, Onward director and former Downing Street policy adviser, said: ‘Young people are suffering an epidemic of loneliness that, if left unattended, will erode the glue that holds our society together.

‘After decades of community decline and fifteen months of rolling lockdowns, young people have fewer friends, trust people less and are more alienated from their communities than ever before. 

‘And it is getting worse with every generation.’

Former health minister Lord O’Shaughnessy added: ‘This report reveals that Britain’s fraying social fabric is not just geographic in nature but generational, with each new cohort of young people less interwoven with, and supported by, wider society than the one before it.’

The proportion of under-35s who say they have one or no close friends has tripled from 7 per cent to 21 per cent over the past decade.

And only 40 per cent said they had at least four close friends in 2021, down from 64 per cent in 2011/12.

The study, which was conducted by think tank Demos, also found a third of adults think there are less opportunities to make new connections now than there were before the pandemic.

A further 13 per cent said they had not been asked how their day was, or talked to a neighbour, in the six months since December.

But 23 per cent said they felt there were now more opportunities to meet new people as society began to reopen.  

Demos warned there was a ‘huge risk’ the community spirit that arose from the crisis — which saw volunteers, friends and family provide food and support to vulnerable members — could be lost.

The research, sponsored by outsourcing giant Capita, found that seven in 10 Brits want to get to know the people who provide local services, while 64 per cent want to befriend community members who use them.

Its report, The Social State, is calling for public services to be delivered in a way that makes it easier for people to form new relationships.

This would enable citizens to prevent problems and manage them more successfully, with less reliance on the state, it believes.

Demos did not provide a breakdown of attitudes by age groups. 

Polly Mackenzie, chief executive at Demos, said the pandemic showed that strong community ties are ‘vital to our resilience and strength as a society’.

She said: ‘Our new research out today worryingly shows that these gains we’ve made in community relationships earlier in the pandemic are in danger of being lost.

‘If we’re to build back stronger from the pandemic, we need to reimagine our public services for the 21st century as a way of strengthening our communities, relationships and social capital.’

Andy Start, executive officer at Capita Government Services, said: ‘The report’s findings demonstrate the UK public’s appetite to shift to a relational model for service delivery.

‘This would enable service providers and users to form strong relationships with one another and build trust, in turn helping combat social isolation and build stronger communities.’

But despite the eagerness to keep the community spirit, 29 per cent of people who are immunosuppressed or have underlying health conditions were still following shielding guidance at the end of last month.

The shielding list applied to nearly 4million people in England who were deemed most at-risk of dying from Covid, including kidney disease and cancer patients.

But this was lifted on April 1 when infections were low and shielders had been invited for Covid vaccines.

Surveys suggest, however, that many are still following the isolation guidance amid concern over rising Covid cases in the country. 

At the peak of the second wave, 60 per cent of shielders were following the guidance, meaning half of them continued to stick with it five months later.

Shielders said they would feel more comfortable venturing out if people wore masks, regular cleaning and testing was in place at venues and social distancing was in place.

Separate data from the Office for National Statistics suggested 2.6million Britons felt lonely ‘often or always’ from April to May last year amid the lockdown.

A Government spokeswoman said: ‘We are acutely aware that for many people the issue of loneliness will not simply just go away as restrictions begin to ease and tackling loneliness remains a priority for this Government.

‘Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have invested over £34million in charities specifically focused on reducing loneliness.

‘We have also recently launched the second round of the £4million Local Connections Fund in partnership with the National Lottery Community Fund, helping to support people to make meaningful and lasting connections in their communities.’

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