Last year many of our vendors were isolated for Christmas in hotel accommodation. They didn’t see all their customers or each other and weren’t able to pop into the Big Issue office’s for a catch up. We made regular welfare calls to vendors during this time and often, we were the only people they spoke to in a week.
Of course, Big Issue vendors were not the only people who were affected. After over a year of lockdowns, social distancing, and restrictions on travel and gatherings, some groups of people have reported high rates of loneliness and poorer well-being in recent months.
Levels of loneliness in Great Britain have increased since spring 2020. Between 3 April and 3 May 2020, 5.0% of people (about 2.6 million adults) said that they felt lonely “often” or “always”. From October 2020 to February 2021, results from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) show that proportion increased to 7.2% of the adult population (about 3.7 million adults).
Research has shown that loneliness and social isolation are associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure as well as developing coronary heart disease and stroke. One study even found that Loneliness, living alone and poor social connections are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
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Round the clock frontline support
Our frontline teams continue to work around the clock to support Big Issue vendors with their mental health and wellbeing.
We have been in regular touch with another vendor with poor mental health. He has explained that he is really struggling, he is lonely as his lives in his accommodation by himself. He called us for a chat as he was feeling really low. We gave him the phone numbers for mental health phone lines and we emailed a local organisation to see if they provide phone befriending at this time, as after speaking to him, he said he feels this would be beneficial. We have found a local organisation who can help and have made a referral for this vendor.