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Ancient Plateau Claylands Image Copyright Suffolk County Council
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Rural isolation in Norfolk and Suffolk hits mental health

Recent figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that people in the UK are among the most lonely and isolated in Europe.

The ONS data* compares the UK with the rest of Europe. The UK came second from bottom for not feeling close to people in their local area. Germany came bottom and Cyprus came top.

And British people were also amongst the least likely to have support if they had a serious personal or family problem. The UK came third from bottom, with Denmark and France at the bottom. Slovakia came top.

In Norfolk nearly 21,000 people over the age of 65 are lonely all or most of the time, and in Suffolk the figure is 16,426 people.**

Loneliness and isolation can have a major impact on people’s wellbeing and mental health. The NHS in Norfolk and Suffolk offers free services for people affected by stress, anxiety or depression.

Norfolk and Suffolk’s Wellbeing services offer support to people who have mild to moderate problems such as anxiety, stress and low mood. You can take a quick NHS online quiz to self- assess your mood using the NHS Mood Self Assessment Quiz.

The aim of Norfolk and Suffolk’s NHS Wellbeing service is to reduce the onset of mental ill health, prevent deterioration and promote recovery by offering a range of flexible services.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust clinical psychologist Nesta Reeve said: “Feeling lonely or isolated can have a big effect on your mental health.

"Feelings of isolation are certainly an issue in rural areas and loneliness can be a problem for older people.

"It’s not just older people, however, who feel isolated or lonely. Young people can also suffer from such feelings. The ONS report shows that in this country we seem to find it harder to get support and feel relatively isolated from our communities, compared to other European countries.

"The good news is that we offer, free-of-charge, services include befriending, one-to-one sessions, talking therapies, counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy.”

NHS Wellbeing services across Norfolk and Suffolk work in partnership with both third sector and private sector organisations to provide a wide range of support.

Alternatively people can call 0300 123 1503 or visit 


* ONS, Measuring National Wellbeing European Comparison, June 2014.

** Around 10% of the population aged over 65 is lonely all or most of the time
(Victor, C. "Loneliness in older age: the UK perspective" in Age UK Oxfordshire (2011) Safeguarding the Convoy: a call to action from the Campaign to End Loneliness). The Office of National Statistics estimates the population in Norfolk aged over 65 is 208,820 and Suffolk is 164,260. (2011 Census – Population and Household Estimates for England and Wales, March 2011). Therefore, approximately 20,882 older people in Norfolk, and 16,426 people in Suffolk are lonely all or most of the time.