Hey There Lonely Girl


From top: lockdown loneiiness study report in The Observer; Luke Brennan

Significantly more woman will feel lonely after reading this article than men.

The above statement is true. It is a fact. The truth of that fact, however, depends on our interpretation.

Let us first accept that more women than men feel lonely, as was recorded in a recent phone poll by the UK’s Institute for Social and Economic Research:

More than a third of women (34%) said they now sometimes felt lonely, and 11% said they often felt lonely. Among men, 23% were sometimes lonely while only 6% were often lonely.

More women than men feel lonely, so therefore, even if the same proportion of women suffer increased loneliness after reading this article, it will be significantly more.

Perhaps you are asking yourself why you are reading this article at this point? You should. Perhaps it is because of the engaging photo of the lonely girl above, or, that on some unconscious level you feel you will understand yourself or the world better by adding to the information you have about it.

Perhaps you wish to avoid loneliness yourself? All of these are valid reasons. The why is not important, the important thing is that you read on, regardless, about the lonely girls. Who could leave them here on these cold paragraphs?

Another question. What if you saw the above pictured girl, with an article which opened with the following statement?

Significantly more women than men are experiencing problems with their mental health as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

That’s how an article online at The Observer started out last week. We have the picture, we have the statement, what about the facts? The article following with:

New research by Lisa Spantig and Ben Etheridge, economists at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, suggests it is because women are more adversely affected by social isolation during lockdown.

The study reveals that the proportion of people who are reporting that they are experiencing at least one severe underlying mental health problem has increased among both genders. Among men it has risen from 7% of men before the pandemic to 18% after its onset. But for women, it has risen from 11% to 27%.

On the basis of these facts, the article’s author, Jamie Doward, continued his theorising with further information, quoting directly from one of the report’s authors, Ben Etheridge:

“It’s well documented that women have drawn the short straw on several different fronts,” Etheridge said. “For example, they are more likely to have lost their jobs.”

Other possible factors include the effects that restrictions on exercise and greater demands involving childcare and domestic work have had on women.”

He then links it with the statistical evidence regarding loneliness at the start of this article. He wraps things up with some useful web search data:

The findings are bolstered by online data which shows that many are struggling with isolation. Results from analyses of Google trends reveal that searches involving words such as “loneliness”, “worry” and “sadness” are increasing in many countries.

It seems very authoritative.

Yes. Yes, Yes. But. Does anyone else feel that their buttons are being pressed?

Jamie is a journalist of 20 years’ experience. He is writing articles for a newspaper which, as part of the Guardian, claims:

Leadership is broken. From the coronavirus pandemic and police brutality to the marginalisation of minority communities around the world, our leaders are failing us. Self-serving and divisive, they are gambling with public health and the future of younger generations. We have to make them raise their game.

This is what the Guardian is for. As an open, independent news organisation we investigate, interrogate and expose the incompetence and indifference of those in power. Your support helps us produce quality, trustworthy, fact-checked journalism every day – and publish it free so everyone can read.

Is the Observer/Guardian ever so slightly over-estimating it’s position in the world? Could it just be another newspaper?

I’m not in any doubt that the Guardian is well intentioned, or that it doesn’t do world class investigative reporting. But. In order to keep this gleaming rocket ship pointed at the stars, they have opened up a donut shop on the ground floor.

We don’t really need the lonely girl articles. Perhaps if the Guardian were a little less morally ambitious, it would be less blind to this. There is no point in being woke, but not awake.

If you look carefully at the numbers on which this article is built:

Among men it has risen from 7% of men before the pandemic to 18% after its onset. But for women, it has risen from 11% to 27%.

Among men you’ll see that a 7% to 18% rise, is a 157% rise. ((18/7 *100)-100)

For women you’ll see that an 11% to a 27% rise is a 145% rise ((27/11*100)-100)

Considering that, do you think this (again, the article opener from above) is true?

‘Significantly more women than men are experiencing problems with their mental health as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.’

I do not understand how there could be any interpretation other than that mental health issues have increased at a greater rate in men than women. Unless you wanted it to be so.

Unless you got so good at making donuts, you forget they weren’t always good for people. Unless you had trained millions to carry around a tray of those donuts on their phones.

I don’t think it’s intentional malice, I think there is an important “but” in the author phrasing:

“But for women, it has risen from 11% to 27%.

The only reason he would add that “but”, is that he believes that the women’s rate increase is higher. His crime is not an intentional one, but rather one of poor mathematics.

One has to ask also, where are the much-vaunted fact-checkers? With these ambitious intentions, it is important part of making sure things add up.

Build a spaceship if you wish but be sure it’s foundations are rock solid. Perhaps pay more attention to morality in how the message is delivered.

Luke Brennan is an Ireland born, Portugal-based writer and entrepreneur and regularly appears on Broadsheet on the Telly.

One third of UK women are suffering from lockdown loneliness (Jamie Doward, The Observer, June 14)

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37 thoughts on “Hey There Lonely Girl

  1. George

    The number of women experiencing new mental health problems since the start of Covid 19 is higher than the number of men experiencing new mental health problems. Women have been worst affected.

    “Significantly more women than men are experiencing problems with their mental health as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.” – this is true.

    If the percentage for men double from 1% to 2% and the figure for women went from 90% to 95% it would also be true.

    1. Cian


      “Among men it has risen from 7% of men before the pandemic to 18% after its onset [11 points more]. But for women, it has risen from 11% to 27% [16 points more].”

      16% is greater than 11% (assuming similar populations).

      1. George

        Assuming a 50/50 gender split the number of women with mental health issues arising from Covid is 45% higher than the number of men. Luke’s analysis is very poor.

        And in fact there are 2.6% more women and girls in the UK than men and boys.

        1. Luke Brennan

          Hi George

          Apologies if I didn’t explain myself well enough, but my basic point is this.

          If men and women suffer from a certain condition to differing degrees.

          Let’s say 10% of men, and 50% of women.

          And they need to be moved….you can move them to hospital wing A or B.

          Those moved to A will have a 15% increase of occurrence of this condition.

          Those moved to B will have a 20% increase of occurrence of this condition.

          When men are moved to wing A, the result is 11.5% have the condition afterwards.

          When men are moved to wing B, the result is 12% have the condition afterwards.

          When women are moved to wing A, the result is 57.5% have the condition afterwards.

          When women are moved to wing B, the result is 60% have the condition afterwards.

          While it is true that “significant more” woman than men will have the condition “as a result” of the hospital move, it is the same regardless of which wing they are moved to.

          If it gives the same result every time, it says nothing.

          What is actually of interest is the rate at which the condition increases, in this case, introduced by the change in hospital wing move, but in the article, the change is the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic.

          1. George

            No that isn’t what is of most interest. The amount of suffering being experienced is of most interest.

  2. 0Johnny Keenan

    Well observed Luke. Ironically The Observer missed the maths.
    Fact checking doesn’t sell papers, apparently. Sensational news headlines do.

    Good thing we have our ole reliable sheet’.

    10 years in business next month.
    Giving many daily discussions over a variety of issues snd topics.

    Always relevant and fact checked.
    News as it happens…

  3. Daisy Chainsaw

    Teh poor menz having attention taken from them again by women.

    Poor menz.

    Won’t somebody please think of teh menz!!!

    1. Ghost of Yep

      Yeah, we try Daisy but like any gender things get on top of us. I hope you keep in contact with your male family and friends. Sometimes we find it hard to be vocal and a little nudge helps us open up. Thanks for caring.

      1. Daisy Chainsaw

        I am. Between birthdays, father’s day, physical visits, passing by the house and giving them a ring, social media etc I keep in regular touch with all the fab men and boys in my life. I can only hope you care enough about the women and girls in your life to do likewise.

  4. White Dove

    Luke, always enjoy watching you on the Telly.

    This is a great article. Absolutely buttons are being pressed, all the time. And particularly with women.

    i can’t see why anyone reads mainstream media unless they want to be depressed. There are lots of other ways in which you can see what’s going on without being inflicted with these programming type articles.

    We are lucky enough to live in a world where we have some control over the frequency we live on. Not always, but at least in relation to media. We should take back that control, learn to recognise programming and stay away from it. Elegance is refusal and never more so than in the publications we read.

  5. Sqoid

    How embarrassing.
    The proportional percentage rise in men suffering loneliness is marginally higher.

    The actual number rise in women suffering is significantly higher.

    It’s so easy to find poor statistical statements in media. Why chose this and then mistakenly jump on any analysis that presents a larger looking number?

  6. jamesjoist

    I think the majority of people who agree to answer the questions of a phone pollster are lonely , or bored . I wonder was there ever any research done between the correlation between loneliness and boredom .

  7. Charger Salmons

    You’re never lonely with a bottle of Bombay Sapphire.
    I should know.
    I have an early sharpener on the go already.

    1. bisted

      …we have much in common Charger…

      1. The blue bottle with a picture of the famine queen on the label…
      2. Tonic…we may differ on the brand…
      3. Ice
      4. Lemon…err…cucumber…err..
      5. err…

      1. Charger Salmons

        Bombay Sapphire is a great leveller old sport.
        Never lemon,occasionally lime when I have a sunny disposition and when the mood takes me a cinammon stick for a bit of variety.
        Bottoms up !

        1. Brother Barnabas

          cinnamon stick…

          a homosexual now, charger ?

          the lockdown did some curious things

          1. Charger Salmons

            Oh Brother, you’re such an old stick in the mud.
            Cinammon is the new amyl nitrite.
            Hadn’t you heard ?

          2. Brother Barnabas

            it’s against god and it’s against nature, so no

            but, as an alternative, I suggest a small of marjoram – stir well

      2. Charger Salmons

        I’m most looking forward to when the pubs open and as part of contact tracing you have to supply your details.
        ” So Mr Drunky McDrunkface, what’ll it be? Pint of the usual ?

  8. Junkface

    I think one of the main contributors to modern loneliness for both women and men is online dating. It has made both sides miserable from what I hear from single friends. I was single for a long while myself too and found the experience to be awful, dishonest, repetitive and deeply frustrating. We have lost something of civilized etiquette, empathy, and trust. People have learned to lie a lot in online dating, to game the system, but then are shocked when they meet someone who has totally miss-represented themselves, sometimes comically. The apps have turned people into game objects, swiping without much contemplation. There are of course many other factors, but I think we have damaged our traditional relationship pursuits and behaviors.

  9. Clampers Outside

    Topic related… “How to Defend Yourself Against Statistical Lies”
    by @HollyMathNerd


    A lovely lady I follow on the twitter machine who goes by @HollyMathNerd put this piece together about statistics and their use in the media and how journalists often haven’t a clue how to interpret the studies they report on, or worse, intentionally misrepresent studies.

    Worth a read, imo

    1. SOQ

      Women are more more likely to have mental health issues while men are more likely to kill themselves just about sums this post up.

      1. Clampers Outside

        I didn’t see that in the post, but yep, I am aware that women in general suffer more from more general mental health issues, but it is men who suffer more from more severe mental health issues that do lead to men killing themselves. Again, I didn’t see that in this post.

        1. millie von strumpet

          Mental health is a massive problem in this country that is slowly (too slowly) beginning to change.

          Women are more likely to suffer from mental health problems, but they are also more likely to seek help for them too. This is down to a changing in attitudes towards mental health, with a particular focus on women’s mental health being seen, and by this I mean that women’s rights groups and advocacy groups highlight it as an ongoing issue requiring work. The same kind of work clearly needs to be done to highlight men’s mental health and to remove the remaining stigma around mental health so that men have not only the same kind of supports in place and feel comfortable in seeking out that help.

          Of course, if we truly want to support men and women equally in terms of mental health, then money needs to be invested into better mental health services.

  10. wearnicehats

    Her article on the use of Average is particularly good. To paraphrase Hanns Johst “whenever I hear the word average I reach for my shotgun”

    A favourite analogy of mine is about 2 engineers and a journalist out hunting. The first engineer takes a shot. “missed to the right”. The second engineer shoots. “Missed to the left” The journalist jumps up and shouts “we got him”

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