As 2020 draws to a close, there's every chance that you’ve felt lonely at some point this year. You might feel lonely now, or as Christmas gets closer you might have feelings of loneliness around that.

The good news is that you’re not alone in that feeling. Loneliness, just like happiness, sadness, and fear, is all part of the human experience – especially in a pandemic.

Just this week, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) released new statistics relating to loneliness following up on surveys they conducted back in April. The percentage of respondents that felt lonely 'all or most of the time’ doubled in that period.

We all know this has been a particularly tough time for young people and that's been reflected in the figures too. More than one in four respondents aged between 18 and 34 reported feeling lonely 'all or most of the time’ and that’s a 15.5% increase since April. It’s been a tough year and we’re not out of the woods yet.

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Professor Roger O’Sullivan from The Institute of Public Health has spent many years researching loneliness and in this month’s edition of You OK? he explains just what it is, how serious it can be for our overall health and how we can begin to address our own personal feelings of loneliness.

"John Cacioppo described loneliness like hunger, thirst, and pain. It’s an emotion that your body tells you, you need to take action and to think about it. When you feel hungry you know what to do, when you feel thirsty you know what to do … and then when you feel lonely it’s about taking action."

The podcast also features a discussion around the stigma and stereotyping associated with loneliness and how that can prevent us from seeking connections when we need to. There’s also advice on how to assess your own level of loneliness and suggestions for how to address increasing your connections or reaching out to existing networks of family and friends.

If you or someone you know is struggling with feelings of loneliness, you can find helpline information at rte.ie/support