How common is loneliness among parents?

two mothers chatting

It might not be an easy thing for anyone to admit, but loneliness amongst parents isn’t uncommon. As part of our work with the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness and Action for Children, we found out some of the things which cause parents to feel lonely

In a recent Mumsnet survey, 71% of parents said that loneliness was a problem for them now, or it has been in the past. 63% agree that they feel more lonely since becoming a parent.

Of those for whom loneliness is or has been a problem, the biggest factors were:

  • A lack of self-confidence: 52%
  • A lack of cash: 40%
  • Physical distance from friends and family: 35%
  • Being out of the workplace/on maternity leave: 34%
  • Caring for a child who's pre-school age: 32%

A large number of parents (61%) said they felt most lonely being at home on their own, while many also feel lonely in social situations including being in a crowd (59%), at playgroups (59%) and at the school gates (57%).

I have autism and find life unbearably lonely. For the last couple of years I've only talked to my husband (who is also autistic) and just one-word conversations (like 'hi', 'thanks', 'bye') to shop assistants or dentists etc.

Survey results found that some factors make loneliness significantly worse. Those who have a child under one are significantly more likely to say that loneliness is a problem for them now (47% of parents of children under one vs 37% of the whole sample).

45% of parents who say they are not in paid work say loneliness is a problem for them now vs 33% of those who are in paid work.

58% of those who describe themselves as single parents, 53% of those who say they have a disability, and 48% of those who say they are caring for a child with a disability, also say that loneliness is a problem for them now – as opposed to 37% of the sample overall.

What would help parents to feel less lonely?

When asked what would help, those for whom loneliness is or has been a problem say they would like support to improve their self esteem (49%), 'open house' baby and child groups with an emphasis on welcoming those who are struggling or facing difficulty (30%) and mental health support (23%).

Justine Roberts, Mumsnet Founder and CEO, said: “Having a baby changes your life in many ways, not all of them as joyful as you might expect. Parents who responded to our survey told us that being out of work or on maternity leave and being short of cash contribute to loneliness, and of course these things are part and parcel of new parenthood for most. It's a reminder that the transition to being a parent can be tough, and a little kindness can go a long way.”

The full survey data is available here. Action for Children has produced a report looking into loneliness among parents and children; you can read the report here.

We'll be chatting on our Talk boards throughout this week about the problems parents face and asking Mumsnet users to share their advice on how to cope. Do join in the chat or tweet us @MumsnetTowers with the hashtag #startswithhello.