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Thousands of Co-op Members have joined in to help the Co-op Foundation understand more about loneliness.

In November, the Foundation asked members to tell us more about the impact coronavirus restrictions have had on their and their loved ones’ experience of loneliness. More than 18,000 of you got involved.

An overwhelming majority thought social distancing measures had impacted peoples’ feeling of loneliness, with 66% indicating they’d been affected personally. Just 2% said they felt less lonely.

Women were more likely to be feeling lonely than men, while young people feel lonely more often than any other age group. In fact, a staggering 80% of those aged under 25 told us they’ve been feeling more isolated since the pandemic began.

Over the past four years, Co-op Foundation has helped thousands of young people tackle loneliness, primarily by awarding £6.5m of grants to youth projects UK-wide. Our Lonely, Not Alone campaign is designed to build on this, by helping young people overcome the stigma many of them feel when talking about the issue.

We asked members to give us their feedback on our 2020 Lonely Not Alone campaign and to share their views on a short video made by the young people who created the campaign. The video explains why they wanted everyone to wear yellow socks to show they care about youth loneliness.

Around 13% of members were already aware of our Lonely Not Alone campaign with the majority having spoken to friends and family about us or loneliness in general, or donned yellow socks to show their support. Almost a third had shared content online, too, with many also sharing their yellow socks Outfit of the Day on social media. 

“Team photo at work wearing yellow socks posted on our social media sites.”

Rachel Stead, Faversham

“I work in a store where I encouraged all colleagues to wear yellow socks and talk to customers about the campaign.”

Catherine Sargent, Southend-On-Sea

“Shared messages of love, friendship and encouragement on social media.”

Javin Mateos, Fife

Members had mixed emotions about how the campaign made them feel. Some said they felt positive, hopeful, acknowledged and supported, others felt sad, and a few were still unsure of the meaning behind the campaign.

“That I want to buy yellow socks to show solidarity.”

Karen Bruin, York

“I felt quite triggered as I’m incredibly lonely, as a young person but also felt supported by the wearing the colour yellow and will definitely be sharing this with my loved ones.”

Carina Gonzalez-Brown, Brighton

“I still don’t really understand the purpose of wearing socks, and how this can help people?”

Matthew Evans, Leyland

Describing it as honest and quirky, members liked the simple and effective idea of the campaign. The use of real people made it easy for members to relate to, with many praising its inclusivity. Members – particularly those aged under 25 – said they would share the video on social media and encourage others to get involved in the campaign. Many thought it may help young people to start a conversation too.

“A simple, yet fun way to let anyone, not just the young, know that they are not alone in feeling lonely.”

Liz Dixon, Cumbria

“That a simple thing like a pair of socks can bring people together.”

Angela Leathley, Leeds

“Watching the video alone, made things seem brighter.”

Sharon Scott, Donaghadee

From increasing awareness through advertising, producing resources and suggesting practical ways to help locally, members have given us some great ideas on how we can work with our young co-designers improve Lonely Not Alone this year.

“I would like to see an extension to the yellow socks idea. Yellow scarves, hairband, bracelet, bag charm or badge to indicate ‘I acknowledge loneliness’, ‘I’m lonely, I’d appreciate a friendly word’ or ‘you can speak to me.’

Janet Lees, Bradford

“Making it easier for people without access to computers, social media know about the campaign. Could you advertise it on TV?”

Lorna Maclean, Ayr

A huge thank you to Co-op Members for getting involved. The findings have shown that if restrictions allow in 2021, we should aim to add ‘ways to get involved’ that are more than digital-only, continue to be as inclusive as possible in the things we create and use real stories in our work. Keep up to date with everything we’re up to by following us on Twitter.

If you have yellow socks you can keep showing you care, too, by wearing them out and about. Every time you do, you’re showing that youth loneliness matters. You can also keep up to date with the Co-op Foundation by subscribing to our blog.

Throughout the past 12 months, Co-op has been regularly checking in with its members and looking for ways to support their wellbeing during the restrictions. To help members stay connected, we’ve hosted many online events – including quizzes, wine and group get-togethers – and we’ll be doing more of the same this year too. Head to your member account to see what opportunities you can get involved in now.

Andy Mortimer
Co-op Foundation

Join the conversation! 13 Comments

  1. These comments highlight the marvellous diversity of the human race. Loneliness is a hidden pandemic. Those who are lonely crave the company of others, but often don’t know how to reach out. Whether or not the co-op is trying to gain brownie points, the plight of the lonely should be acknowledged. There is a kind of stigma attached to being lonely – ‘ you must be a bit weird if you haven’t got any friends’, but that is very far from the truth. There is also a big difference to being alone. Being alone doesn’t mean you are lonely, but neither does being lonely mean you are alone. Yellow socks might seem a bit trite, but a friendly smile or word to a complete stranger can be worth the world. Better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all.

  2. Acknowledging that people – of all ages – are lonely is very nice and self-satisfying but doesn’t actually do anything to relieve the problem..

  3. As the lockdown period is happening again and the nation is 10 months into the pandemic along with the rest of the globe. Any attempt to recognise the vulnerability and loneliness of our society has to be useful to someone who needs help.

  4. So sad that some. People have negative comments, i think wearing of yellow socks dont harm anyone… And it is nice to see.. Well done all.

  5. Why would certain people dismiss and rubbish this idea, I’m not saying it’s the best but at least it’s something and you know what maybe someone who is lonely and may not be in a good place one day sees a person with silly yellow socks and then just maybe they smile and think and maybe that’s enough.
    Don’t moan at people who try to help instead of your negative thoughts and energy why don’t you try to help by being a little more positive. Just a thought eh you don’t know where you may be in a year, two or five so please no more. Thanks

  6. I am alone, but not lonely. And I like wearing yellow, it makes me smile and it suits me, but I don’t want to be approached by strangers because I have a yellow coat. I am now confused!

  7. Why do some people have to be so dismissive and unkind, If they think they can do better let us see their clever ideas Come on moaners – money where your mouth is

  8. A complete sham, what a waste and denial of true opinion

    • I don’t understand your comment George ,anything that makes lonely people know that people out there care for you and you are not alone must be good .

  9. How about some free yellow socks? Maybe the Coop ( all of us ) can afford that?

  10. iif that is the the best the co-op can do , it a cheap way out of doing nothing really ,the british
    red cross i a great organisation but it is not the co-op


    • What a white wash! A special selection of comments to make the co-op look good. The yellow socks idea was risable. I don’t trust you now.

      • So disappointing to have negative comments when others are trying to be positive and help. Clearly not specially selected comments; they printed yours.


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