Headlines > Over 75% of disabled youngsters suffer from loneliness

Posted on July 11, 2017

Image by Dominik Golenia

Lenny Van Reeth discusses the stigma faced by society’s most vulnerable group
A new survey of 2,000 people across the UK, conducted by the national disability charity Sense on behalf of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, has found that 75% of disabled young adults suffer from loneliness.

The study also found that one in four people have tried to avoid conversations with disabled people. Even more alarmingly, this figure doubled when the question was asked to people under the age of 24.

Reasons for avoiding conversation were said to be “fear of causing offence”, “not knowing what to talk about” and “feeling uncomfortable”.

“I just want to be treated as a normal person”, says 23-year-old Molly Watt, who was diagnosed with the usher syndrome (hearing loss and eye disorder) at the age of 12. Molly believes that some people don’t know how to cope when friends are diagnosed with a disability and drift away as a result. Molly says that when facing a disability, “You learn who your true friends are.”

Because we constantly worry about the physical health of disabled people, we may neglect to think about their mental health

In response to this survey Richard Kramer, deputy CEO of Sense said, “Out-dated attitudes towards disability are still preventing people from striking up conversations.”

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Many disabled people report feeling more included and powerful when they reach adulthood.

Ellen Watson, 21, who was diagnosed with usher syndrome when she was 16, has seen this process of isolation reverse. “I had access to excellent support – and my friends were waiting for me,” she says.

What I think
Even though it may be wrong, I can understand why some people tend to avoid disabled people, clearly due to the stigma surrounding them. Far more work needs to be done, especially in education, to remove this stigma, by encouraging inclusiveness and openness in the classroom and outside of it.

Also, because we constantly worry about the physical health of disabled people, we may neglect to think about their mental health. More should be done to improve mental health support for the disabled and integrated groups and clubs should be put in place, allowing them to socialise more easily.

Talking to young people working at Exposure who are disabled, I saw that their experiences were quite similar to those in the survey. Often they feel like people do avoid talking to them, although they still have good friends to provide support, meaning that they don’t feel very lonely.

We should make sure all disabled people get that support.

What do you think? Please comment below.

Lenny Van Reeth
Lenny is studying at the Latymer School where he aims to take maths, art, politics and history A-level. He plays the guitar and will recommend you listen to Radiohead the first second you get to know him. Apart from his Radiohead obsession he also draws, plays football and binges British comedy shows.


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3 Responses to Over 75% of disabled youngsters suffer from loneliness

  1. Shakira July 12, 2017 at 10:45 am #

    https://blog.scope.org.uk/2017/07/11/changing-the-attitudes-of-the-next-generation/ On Scope’s blog, a young woman with dwarfism is going into schools to help talk to children about the negative effects of bullying.

    But it’s not just outright bullying, its just that feeling other people have of you being ‘different’ – which can then affect whether you want to talk to someone next time, thinking they may feel the same way.

    However, more and more this so called stigma is going away – with just more young people making friends with each other.If someone was diagnosed at 12 that shouldn’t stop her friends already from chatting with her.

  2. Shakira Dyer July 13, 2017 at 11:33 am #

    I also found this https://blog.scope.org.uk/2017/07/13/we-all-want-to-be-a-part-of-society-dont-we-addressing-loneliness-in-disabled-people/ Seems all charities are getting together to tackle lonliness – and they should!


  1. Exposure Organisation- magazine – Disability History Month – Access the Arts - December 9, 2017

    […] This article explains research by the Jo Cox Foundation that as many as 75% of disabled young people feel lonely and isolated, which can lead to depression or at the very least, feeling as if no-one wants you. The article explores the stories of two young people who have Usher’s syndrome (causing degrees of deaf-blindness) […]

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