Health bosses have said it’s “ok to take small steps” if you’re anxious about heading out after lockdown restrictions are lifted.
The Campaign to End Loneliness has also warned that those particularly affected by lockdown and left feeling lonely could be left behind.
A recent ONS study between October 2020 to February 2021 put North and North East Lincolnshire among the places with the highest rates of reported loneliness.
It showed more than one million extra people nationally were reporting they were lonely either “always” or “often” compared to spring.
North Lincolnshire had the fifth highest proportion of people in the country (16%) who said they felt lonely, behind Middlesborough (fourth – 16.65%), Corby (third – 17.12%), Blackburn with Darwen (second – 17.90%) and Wycombe (first – 18.52%).
In Lincolnshire, the next highest proportion of people who said they felt lonely was in North East Lincolnshire at around 14.1% South Holland at 12.7% and West Lindsey with 12.1%.
Lincoln saw 5.4% of people reporting often or always feeling lonely, while the areas with the fewest loneliness reports were North Kesteven (1.7%) and Boston (4.2%).
Many have cited fears that people who have been isolated for the best part of a year could feel anxious about the return to normality.
Andy Fox, deputy director for public health at Lincolnshire County Council said: “Most people will probably have some sort of anxiety or concern around things opening up again and the best advice I can give is to encourage people to follow the restrictions we have at every stage.”
This included, he said, getting vaccinated and following the usual rules of social distancing plus mask, face, space.
However, he added: “If people are going out about and they are nervous about whether or not the place they’re going to will be COVID secure, it’s okay to take small steps and you don’t have to go to that business if you’re not confident it will be COVID secure.
“Instead go to a business that you are confident is COVID secure and that does it properly.”
The Campaign to End Loneliness has been pushing for more support in getting people to reconnect and supporting those feeling isolated, but more than two thirds of organisations had found issues in keeping people talking.
Robin Hewings, Programme Director for the Campaign to End Loneliness, said: “Loneliness can have a major impact on our mental health and well-being. Helping people who are lonely keep up conversations is an important part of tackling loneliness.
“The lessons learnt by charities, councils and social enterprises during this lockdown will make sure that volunteer callers and befrienders get the right support to help people who are isolated to keep up meaningful conversations now and in the future.”