CEO thoughts: Digital literacy key tool in war on loneliness

July 27, 2018

The appointment of Tracey Couch earlier this year as the first minister for loneliness serves as the sharpest indication yet that social isolation across the UK is reaching epidemic proportions. Indeed, according to a December 2017 report from the Jo Cox Commission of Loneliness, more than nine million people across Britain self-identify as feeling often or always lonely.

Protracted periods of loneliness can not only seriously impact on emotional wellbeing; it also has a number of significant physical connotations. For example, a 2015 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal found that chronic loneliness may reduce a person’s ability to fight viral infections. The issue is exacerbated particularly among older people, who may not have any prior digital experience and could be living in sheltered housing away from friends or family.

We see many people who are on lower incomes as part of our work who report feeling isolated and out of the loop thanks to poor online skills. We’ve witnessed first-hand the effect that digital skills training delivered as part of a wider social support programme can have on reducing isolation and helping individuals feel more connected to a wider community.

Whether that’s using the internet to connect with friends via social media, or joining an online dating site, the social benefits that come with digital literacy should not be understated.

Appointing a minister for loneliness is a step in the right direction in tackling the UK’s social isolation crisis, and I’d like to see local authorities across the UK put digital skills training front and centre in their own war on loneliness.

Gary Bullock