Samaritans poised to take calls as new survey reveals extent of festive loneliness and isolation

Embargoed: 00:01 Monday 14 December 2015. 

Samaritans has released new figures showing the extent of loneliness and isolation people feel over the festive period, with nearly a quarter (23.6%) believing problems feel worse at Christmas and 1 in 6 (17.3%) saying it’s the loneliest time of year.*

The survey, of all ages, also reveals that 1 in 15 (6.8%) have often spent Christmas alone, and 1 in 25 (3.8%) of those questioned have said they are with friends and family, but really spent it alone.

Samaritans responded to nearly 200,000* calls for help over the festive period last year, and are seeing an increasing demand for their services, responding to more than 5.3 million calls for help overall in 2014 (the latest full year for which figures are available).

Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland says, “For many the holiday period can be a thoroughly enjoyable time but, sadly, as our research shows, for a startling amount of people this is not always the case.  This time of year can bring up painful memories, or worsen difficult feelings often related to family or relationship issues, financial or health worries, to name just a few.  The pressure to be having a good time or comparing your life with someone else’s can be too much. Even with friends and family around you, that sense of being alone with difficult thoughts or feelings, can make it seem as if you have no one to turn to.” 

“The important thing to remember is that no one needs to feel alone this Christmas. Samaritans volunteers are there to listen round the clock, every day of the year.  We don’t judge and we don’t share what we’re told, we’re simply there to listen, provide emotional support and help people find a way through whatever’s getting to them.”

Dad of three, Bob Howe, from Leeds in Yorkshire is one of Samaritans’ 21,000 volunteers. He makes sure he’s there to listen over the festive period and has taken hundreds of calls from people finding Christmas or New Year an ordeal.

“This is my fifteenth year as a Samaritans volunteer. I’m happy to give up my time as I know that there are a lot of people who, more than ever, need someone to turn to.  Support services often shut down at this time of year, or family and friends may be far away, leaving some people feeling more isolated than usual.  Knowing I can provide vital support to people who might be having a difficult time is the best gift I can think of giving.”

Samaritans relies almost entirely on donations to run its 201 branches and train more than 21,000 dedicated volunteers, without whom it could not operate its life-saving services for those who need them most. If you would like to support Samaritans by making a donation, you can find out how you can help at:


To find out more about Samaritans’ Christmas campaign, interviews with Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland, volunteers working over the holiday period, and people who have benefited from Samaritans’ support when they have felt isolated and alone, please contact Samaritans’ press office on 020 8394 8300, or email

Photos are available to accompany this release (see samples attached).

*Samaritans’ Christmas 2015 online survey was carried out between 27 May & 2 June 2015. A nationally representative sample of 1600 adults was surveyed

** Samaritans' telephone platform 18 December 2014 to 1 January 2015

Notes to editors

  • Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place to talk for anyone who is struggling to cope, whoever you are and whatever life has done to you. Please call 116 123 (this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill), or email, or visit to find details of your nearest branch.
  • More than 6,000 people die by suicide every year in the UK. Nearly 80% are men and male suicide rates are at their highest level since 2001. Deprivation is a major risk factor too. People living in poorer areas of the UK are ten times more likely to die by suicide.