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Christmas can be a wonderful time of year but it can also be a really lonely one. Many disabled and neurodivergent people are more likely to struggle with loneliness – especially at a time of year that is renowned for family, friends, parties and social events. A lack of an emotional connection or people around at this time of year can make people feel depressed or anxious.

We conducted a survey in November 2021 which revealed that 47% of disabled people felt lonely frequently with 12% feeling lonely all the time. We need to recognise when people might be struggling or recognise the signs in ourselves.

Access our survey results by clicking here

It can be difficult to reach out to ask for help and our survey discovered just 20% had spoken to a professional about the impact their loneliness was having on them. However, 48% had reached out to family or friends to talk which is more positive.

In the survey, we asked people what they thought might help with 45% of disabled people reporting a hug or personal contact would be great. A further 38% suggested one-to-one time with friends also helped. Some thought that connecting with others in the disability community may help.

How can I help?

Reach out

We’ve all been there when things get busy at Christmas – not having enough mental or physical space to go for a coffee or drink with someone. It’s hard to stay in touch with people, especially during the festive season. If you haven’t seen someone in a while – why not text or call them?

Be there
Asking how someone is and taking the time to really listen is appreciated. Putting your phone down and asking questions means someone is more likely to open up. Don’t put pressure on someone to tell you what they are feeling if they can’t or don’t want to. Alternatively, make it clear that you are there for them if they want to talk or gently let them know you have concerns.

Set up an anti- loneliness Christmas event
Setting up group activities either online or offline can also help people to feel included. It might be fun to organise an online pub quiz or watch a film with someone as a way of staying connected. If someone is struggling, they may appreciate an activity which can get their mind off things.

Talk to other mates
Telling another friend of your concerns can be very helpful. A team approach to making sure someone isn’t feeling down or alone means there is less stress on one person.

Care for carers
It can be really hard to look after someone who isn’t well. The end of the year can be exhausting for everyone especially if you are providing care for a loved one or family member who isn’t well. Taking the time to reach out, ask how they are, take them for a coffee or offer to listen if they need it. Could you organise something fun for them or bring them a present to cheer them up?

Offer to decorate
Many disabled or chronically ill people may not feel well enough to decorate their homes. Can you offer to pop over and help them put up some decorations or take them down when they need to?

Invite someone for Christmas
Are you in a position to have someone over for Christmas? People can be on their own for multiple of reasons and may not feel comfortable asking to join your family for the day. If you suspect someone might be on their own – why not offer a seat at the table for dinner or offer to pop over afterwards?

If there are a group of you that are without a place to go for Christmas – why not organise a day together? You can split the responsibilities and the cost between you and it means that no one is on their own. It can also mean you discover a new Christmas tradition!

Click here to read more about loneliness and disability 

New Year’s Eve and loneliness

New Year’s Eve is another time when people may struggle as they don’t have family or friends around. Some may not feel up to going to crowded bars or may worry that pub or club is not accessible. Could you potentially hold a drinks evening or film night that evening at your house instead? Or offer to go to theirs armed with a cheeky prosecco and party poppers?

Check if a pub/nightclub is accessible
New Year is one of the biggest nights out of the year but it can be difficult to navigate for disabled people. If you are organising drinks or a night out, check ahead of time that the pub or club that you choose is accessible for people.

Not sure how to choose somewhere to go? Ask don’t assume someone’s access requirements and that will help you narrow down a few spots. It could be that someone needs a quieter pub because they are neurodivergent and may struggle with crowds or if someone is a wheelchair user then they may need step-free access.

Download our free resource on how to choose an accessible venue

If you are struggling with loneliness or just need a chat: here are some helplines or websites that may help you

Mind –  0300 123 3393 /
Samaritans – 116 123 /
Calm – 0800 58 58 58 /
Childline (under 19) – 0800 1111

Age UK
Marmalade Trust

Love Lounge