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Winter is coming - looming restrictions and darker days increase further fears of loneliness

October 2020 by Kaspersky

As tiered lockdowns are enforced across the UK, winter is set to look a whole lot darker and lonelier for Brits throughout the country. With less face-to-face interactions and social anxiety levels predicted to rise, adults in Britain could be about to experience a long and lonely road ahead.

In previous years, 1 in 3 people have suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – but this year could witness a much higher rate, as concerns around social restrictions and further isolation start to re-surface.
Technology was the saving grace for many over the initial lockdown, with platforms such as Skype and Zoom keeping people connected when physical visits were impossible. Now as we look to face a socially distanced winter, there will likely be a growing reliance on technology once again. In fact, nearly three quarters (71%) of adults in the UK agree technology is helping them feel connected to friends or family who live far away, increasing to 77% of Millennials.

Over a third of Brits (35%) surveyed agree that the social restrictions brought in as a result of COVID-19 have made them feel more comfortable using technology to connect with others than they did before. This figure rises to 51% of Millennials.

Psychotherapist and founder of Psyched Kathleen Saxton believes that while technology is helping people during the pandemic, loneliness is the greatest epidemic to befall humans and will remain long after the current crisis. She comments, “Whilst at times we can be rather bedazzled by the technology on offer to us over the last few years, it is fair to say that we have been grateful for their existence in recent months. It is clear to see that even though technology can never replace human contact, it has gone some way to addressing the loneliness everyone has been feeling during this rather torrid time. Maybe the robots are coming – but maybe they are bearing positive gifts.”

The resulting isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic has also further impacted people’s mental health and has put additional pressure on all areas of society. And this is set to continue – and potentially worsen – as we enter the winter months. In fact, over half of Brits (53%) who have felt lonely at times during the COVID-19 crisis[1], have been feeling lonelier than they did beforehand. Perhaps surprisingly, Generation Z[2] has been found to be the loneliest age demographic, with 73% of people in this age group admitting to feeling lonely during ‘lockdown’, at least some of the time (since April 2020), compared to just 31% of the Silent Generation[3]. While older generations are often prioritised by governments and communities to ensure they are not left isolated, younger people and those of working age could be missing out on the support they need. However, while technology is clearly proving to be a benefit, not everybody is as tech-savvy as they would like to be. Nearly half (46%) of people who say they are lonely all of the time[4] wish they were more confident in using technology, as it would help them feel less lonely. This lack of confidence could prove detrimental over the winter period as social restrictions could leave individuals without the means to stay connected.

“Technology has been there for everyone during the pandemic. We have used it to stay in touch, to keep the economy growing, by working from home, and by consuming online. This winter will undoubtedly be a time when we are going to rely on all our devices. With this in mind it is even more vital to make sure ALL our devices are secure and up to date. It’s is a strange abnormality that most of us will think about protecting a desktop or a laptop, but many forget about the devices we spend most of our time on – our mobile devices. In security we say, ‘you are only as safe as your weakest link’. It’s no good having a laptop that is super secure when your mobile is open to attack, essentially you are wasting your money. Secure everything and always stay alert,” comments Alexis Conran, Times Radio host and presenter of The Joy of Techs.

“I don’t think we have ever seen such a rapid mass adoption of technology before. Typically, technology tends to be woven into our lives more gradually, but the current pandemic situation has forced people who previously shied away from technology to adopt it. Some services, like video calling or online grocery shopping, that were once used occasionally have now become essential. While its great news that those once fearful or dismissive of some technologies are now reaping the benefits, it’s important to be mindful that people’s awareness and attitudes to online risks may well lag behind their understanding of how to use technology. We need to ensure they are staying connected safely. When used safely, the online and digital tools we have at our disposal can offer a great remedy to loneliness,” comments David Emm, Principal Security Researcher at Kaspersky.

“We are fortunate that we can stay connected online during this period and we are likely to see these habits continue even after any remaining social distancing measures are lifted. It’s important to create secure online habits from the outset to make sure that we do not fall victim to cybercrime at a time when coronavirus is making us more dependent on technology.” Further findings from Kaspersky’s latest research are available in the full Find Your Tribe report online.

As technology is having such an important impact on helping people who may be lonely, Kaspersky is taking steps to help people stay safe online through the winter months and beyond. Information, including guides on smartphone protection and securing your digital life, are available via the company’s blog.

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