Hundreds of thousands of adults here have said they feel lonely some or all of the time, but many feel ashamed to admit it, according to a new survey.
Almost one-third of adults (31%) said they felt lonely some or all of the time, while more than three-quarters (76%) had felt lonely at some point in the month prior to the survey.
The Mental Health Foundation commissioned the survey, carried out online in late February and early March by Opinium.
A total of 1,000 people were asked a series of questions, largely centred on loneliness.
Mental health is harmed by loneliness, the foundation said.
Nearly half (45%) of those surveyed said they would never admit to being lonely, while one-third felt ashamed when they did so.
The results were published ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week, organised by the foundation across the UK for the last 22 years.
“This year’s theme is loneliness, chosen because it can damage mental health and because it surged during the lockdowns,” the foundation said.
“The foundation is inviting people to share their experiences of loneliness and how it has affected their mental health using #IveBeenThere as a way of opening up the conversation and helping to reduce stigma.”
Karen Hall, who leads the organisation here, said: “Loneliness is a significant public health issue and if we are to curb the flow of mental health problems in society we need to take loneliness seriously.
“We can all feel lonely at times, but when loneliness is experienced over the long-term, it can lead to anxiety and depression.
“Our research shows that despite so many people being affected by loneliness, almost half of us would not admit to feeling lonely. All of us have a part to play in tackling loneliness and its stigma, and helping to prevent poor mental health.
“We hope that Mental Health Awareness Week will encourage more people to have open conversations about loneliness and how it affects their mental health and wellbeing.”
The charity believes some groups are particularly likely to feel lonely, such as young adults, people with existing mental health problems and those from some minority ethnic groups.
Other groups more likely to be affected by loneliness include older people, particularly those digitally excluded, those living with long-term health conditions, the unemployed and those identifying as LGBTQ+, it said.
The organisation wants the new Assembly and local councils to “take the issue of loneliness seriously”.
It is arguing for a communities mental health and wellbeing fund of £2m to provide small grants to enable local communities to engage in activities that support good mental health and wellbeing, social connections, recovery and creativity.
More than half of respondents said improved community-based clubs and activities where people can meet are important.
“Local community groups and organisations play a vital role in supporting social connection and good mental health,” Ms Hall said.
“Often operating with very low funds, community organisations have the potential to boost social connections, help tackle loneliness and substantially contribute to improving mental health and wellbeing here.”