YOUNG ADULTS living in rural Scotland have been hit hardest by loneliness during the pandemic according to a RuralCovidLife survey by Edinburgh University.

More than 3000 people in rural communities across Scotland were polled in October and November 2020 to investigate the psychological, social and financial effects of the Covid-19 restrictions on people living in rural areas.

When asked how lonely they were feeling, 32% of those aged 18 to 29 years old said they felt lonely most or all of the time. This compared with 3% in the 70 to 79 age group, and 8% of the total surveyed.

The RuralCovidLife survey is one of the first to provide insight into rural areas, where one in six people in Scotland live and work, organisers from the University of Edinburgh said.

Some 87% said that high-speed broadband was very important to be able to work from home, however 19% of those surveyed reported that their current connection speeds were either poor or very poor.

Reliable high-speed broadband was also an important way of keeping in contact with friends and family for 67% of participants, which experts have said could be important for counteracting loneliness.

RuralCovidLife is part of Generation Scotland, a long-term Scotland-wide research project looking at the health and wellbeing of volunteers and their families. Generation Scotland participants have answered questions on their medical history and lifestyle, and granted researchers access to their health records.

Principal Investigator for Generation Scotland at the University of Edinburgh, Professor David Porteous, said: “Despite rural communities being spared the high infection rates and number of deaths seen in urban areas during the first wave, our results show that they have been impacted in terms of social isolation and connecting with others be it online or in their own community.”

Jenny Campbell, aged 27, a regional manager for the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs, is part of the advisory group for RuralCovidLife and participated in the survey. During a typical year, SAYFC members would be meeting regularly for activities, competitions and socials, but all had to adapt to find different ways to support one another over lockdown.

“It’s very sad to see reports of young people feeling lonely in rural Scotland, with horrid figures in this survey showing feelings of loneliness are high during the pandemic," commented Ms Campbell. "SAYFC has always sought to counter social isolation and loneliness in rural Scotland and I am proud of how our members have looked out for each other and people across their rural communities of all ages during the pandemic.”