Around eight million people are estimated to live alone in the UK and Ireland, meaning you probably know someone who’s been tackling the latest lockdown solo.
Even if your friends or loved ones normally relish the independence of having their own space, spending time at home with limited human contact can understandably be difficult right now.
Although it’s tempting to try and put their worries in perspective, it’s easy to miss the mark and undermine their feelings with a badly worded comment.
Here are a few things you should never say to someone living alone during the pandemic…
1. ‘Don’t you get lonely?’
Living alone isn’t the same as being lonely, but if your friend is feeling alienated right now, then prying could make them feel worse.
Asking, ‘How are you?’ might be a more comfortable way to check-in. Instead of holding their mental health under a microscope, why not do something helpful like offer to diarise some virtual hangouts or socially distanced walks?
2. ‘At least you don’t have to deal with kids or a flatmate’
Everyone is dealing with their own struggles right now; it’s not a competition to see who has it worse.
Dealing with screaming children and messy flatmates isn’t the same as spending huge chunks of time with little to no face to face contact.
Even if your comments are well intentioned, your friend might feel like you don’t think their problems are as valid as yours.
3. ‘At least you’ll have time to get on with loads of personal projects’
Just because someone lives alone doesn’t mean they have unlimited time to write a bestselling novel or learn a new language.
It’s easy to romanticise solo life, but people who live alone also have jobs and responsibilities. Plus, all the chores and households tasks can fall on them, so they’re probably not putting their feet up all day.
4. ‘Why don’t you move in with someone else?’
Would you uproot your entire life and move in with a bunch of random people or your parents in the middle of a global pandemic?
Just because someone doesn’t live with children or a partner, don’t assume they can drop everything and up sticks whenever they fancy – or that they’d want to either.
5. ‘You need to get on Zoom more’
Now we’re all seasoned lockdown pros, we can agree chatting to friends on Zoom isn’t the same as meeting up in real life. In fact, it can often be awkward and a bit draining.
Try not to assume your friend is desperate to spend every evening chatting to people online.
6. ‘On the bright side, you’re less likely to catch it’
Even the most careful people can catch coronavirus, so it’s unfair to assume your friends are at some kind of advantage because they live alone.
In fact, it’s worse for them, because if they do get it, they might not have anyone to care for them and keep an eye on their symptoms.
7. ‘At least you can have a support bubble’
Remember, not everyone is able to have a support bubble. Some people might not live close to family or friends, while others might be high-risk and shielding.
8. ‘I thought you liked living alone?’
Lockdown is full of ups and downs. Just because someone is having a difficult day, it doesn’t mean they necessarily hate living alone.
Let them vent – chances are they’re just missing their friends and family, and are rightfully fed up of living alone.
Instead, be a good friend, acknowledge their feelings, validate their concerns and let them know you’re always there to listen.