One in four adults feel lonely some or all of the time. There’s no single cause and there’s no one solution. After all, we’re all different! But the longer we feel lonely, the more we are at risk of mental health problems. Some people are also at higher risk of feeling lonely than others. The pandemic brought loneliness to so many, with social distancing restrictions and lockdowns contributing to an almost 50% increase in the number of adults in Great Britain saying they were often or always lonely.
The Mental Health charity Mind has several tips for managing loneliness, and the Mental Health Foundation have created excellent resource to help tackle loneliness in some communities who are at a higher risk of feeling lonely than others, specifically students, young parents and those in later life.
Mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression or eating disorders, may also contribute to loneliness, as the conditions may make social situations and relationships difficult, often leading to isolation.
Our Mental Health BioResource is running two major studies to help better understand the links between mental health, our genes and the environment, and both study teams have been busy!
The Genetic Links to Anxiety & Depression (GLAD) Study has been recruiting participants since 2018. Anyone currently or previously experiencing anxiety and/or depression is able to sign up and consent electronically, with a saliva kit sent out in the mail. In late April, the GLAD team confirmed that 30,000 participants had returned their saliva samples since the study began. The DNA extracted from the samples are an important aspect of the GLAD Study, the largest to look at how genes and the environment work together to impact mental health. Huge thanks to the volunteers for participating and well done to the study teams for processing so many samples!
Our Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative (EDGI) UK team made an important visit to 10 Downing Street last month to discuss eating disorders treatment and research. Lead investigator for EDGI and the Mental Health BioResource, Professor Gerome Breen, was joined in London by mental health campaigner and EDGI volunteer, Hope Virgo, Chair of the Faculty of Eating Disorders psychiatry at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Agnes Ayton, along with Danny Bowman from MaleVoicED and Suzanne Baker from FEAST.
The team raised major concerns about calorie labelling on menus, issues with the use of body-mass index (BMI) as a reporting tool, the ongoing stigma around EDs, the workforce crisis and much more.
Clearly a visit like this is just one step in the long road to implementing policy change, but it is incredibly vital that these messages are delivered. Hope shared some ideas on Twitter for how we can all contribute to this fight, including writing to your local MP.
Both EDGI and GLAD are actively recruiting new volunteers. If you have ever experienced an eating disorder (EDGI) or had anxiety/depression (GLAD), please head to the relevant websites to learn more and consider signing up.
If you are a researcher, learn more about using the NIHR BioResource to support your work.
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