The loneliness of learning disability

For 3 years in a row LDAS has undertaken a survey on a subject that is voted on by our members from a number of choices also put forward by them. So there is no doubt that the focus of our surveys are matters of real importance to the learning disability community. But it so happens that our latest survey is also of interest to many other groups as well. We speak, of course, of loneliness and isolation.

Now the subject of a major consultation by the Scottish Government, the first of its kind to take place, loneliness and isolation is becoming a hot topic, and not only here in Scotland. From the number of information gathering exercises that have taken place in recent years it has become apparent that despite living in a more global world and having a new level of communication via the internet that dwarfs anything we have ever experienced before, people seem to be lonelier and more disconnected than ever.

This issue is regularly in the news nowadays, helped by high profile research in relation to the elderly, as well as the efforts of the Jo Cox Foundation over the last year in honour of the late MP, which describes levels of loneliness across the UK as a ‘giant evil.’

A Connected Scotland

We would of course encourage all our members and readers to take part in the Scottish Government consultation entitled,  A Connected Scotland: Tackling social isolation and loneliness and building stronger communities  before it closes on 27 April as it aims to build on work of the Equal Opportunities Committee Inquiry into Age and Social Isolation and develop a national strategy to tackle the problem, which can impact severely on people’s physical and mental health.

But while the Connected Scotland consultation is aimed at finding out about loneliness and isolation in respect to wider Scottish society, what of Scotland’s learning disability community? Will the experience of loneliness and isolation be different for them? Does a learning disability make people more vulnerable to feeling lonely and isolated?

These were exactly the questions we concerned ourselves with in our survey and the results, which have now been published in both easy read and a more detailed form and are available for download, demonstrate that when it comes to learning disabilities social connectedness is a big problem.

In our survey we set out separate questions in relation to loneliness and isolation and gave definitions of both for respondents. Those who said isolation was part of their life experience were 40%, with a further 16% of people saying they had experience of isolation at some point in their lives. When it comes to loneliness the figures were even higher with 69% admitting to feeling lonely a lot and a further 11% feeling lonely sometimes.

In short a whopping 80% of Scotland’s learning disability community feel or sometimes feel lonely.

We go into more detail in our survey report about our findings which you can read here, but some important summary findings from our report are as follows:

  • 80% feel lonely or sometimes feel lonely
  • 56% experience isolation or have sometimes experienced isolation
  • Evenings is the time of day when people are most susceptible to feeling lonely and isolated
  • Autism, mental health and speech and communications problems are the most prominent conditions that lead to people being isolated
  • Times of transition, bereavement or major health changes, such as menopause, are named as prominent times when people have been left isolated and lonely

The report does list a number of recommendations to address issues of loneliness and isolation suggested by respondents ,which we will go into in more detail in a further post. As we get nearer to the close of the Government’s own consultation it will be interesting to see the comparisons between the experiences of people across Scottish society and those of people with learning disabilities. In the meantime we hope you will find our survey results of interest and work with us to push for the recommendations people with learning disabilities want to see implemented for positive change.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *