The dismantlement of family and community life by the state over recent decades is costing British taxpayers £32 billion a year in healthcare provision, policing, and loss of revenue through social disengagement, a new report has found.
The report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Capr), commissioned by The Eden Project’s neighbourhood initiative, The Big Lunch, which receives £1m-£2m a year from the public body the Big Lottery Fund, makes no recommendations. But the director of Cebr has called for more government funding to reverse the trend.
Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the nuclear family has been under constant attack from the left, leading to a wider breakdown in community cohesion and a sharp rise in single occupancy households.
The report found that loneliness, and the despair that results from it, now affects every stratum of British society from the young single mum to the elderly.
“[There are] key triggers that can disrupt lives and create a situation in which loneliness becomes the norm,” the report says. “[These] include becoming a new mum at a young age, facing empty nest syndrome or retirement, experiencing long-term health issues or mobility limitations, dealing with bereavement or going through a family breakdown, such as divorce or separation.”
Analysis by the Office for National Statistics in 2014 found that Britain is the loneliness capital of Europe, and was ranked 26 out of the 28 European Union nations on the proportion of the population who say they have someone they feel they could rely on if they had a serious problem. Only France and Denmark scored lower on that metric, but both showed significantly stronger neighbourhood ties.
The problem is deeper than mere loneliness, however. Research shows that feeling lonely can have a knock-on effect on mental and physical health – and it is these negative outcomes which the researchers say are costing the British taxpayer billions of pounds.
“We estimate that, based on our assumptions, involvement in community activities and initiatives […] is currently delivering reduction in the demands on the health services that can be valued at £2.7 billion. This has the potential to rise to an estimated £7.9 billion if there is more widespread involvement.
“The £5 billion difference between the two can be interpreted as an indicative estimate of the burden on the health service that probably arises as a result of the lack of more widespread involvement in the community – and thus as part of the cost of disconnected communities.”
Similarly, the evidence gathered suggests that a greater sense of community translates into a one per cent reduction in crime – equivalent to a saving of £205 million to the policing budget, according to Home Office figures.
Meanwhile, previous research indicating that increased happiness could boost productivity by as much as 12 per cent suggests that increasing community cohesion – and therefore happiness – would bring benefits to the economy to the tune of £12 billion a year.
“Productivity is boosted by happiness generated through community involvement and the social cohesion it brings, and is also effected by the lower stress, higher self-esteem, health and lifestyle benefits gained through community involvement,” the report concludes.
However, rather than addressing the underlying cause of community breakdown such as state interference eroding all-important familial and community ties, the report’s authors have used the figures to call for even more state involvement in local communities.
“The next step is obviously to provide more funding for these kinds of initiatives.” Oliver Hogan, director of Cebr told The Guardian.