Research commissioned for the BBC found that UK society is a far lonelier one over the last 30 years (1971-2001), noting that “neighbourhoods in every part of the UK have become more socially fragmented.”
Daniel Dorling (at Sheffield Univ.) headed the research team which created a formula based on “the proportion of people in an area who are single, those who live alone, the numbers in private rented accommodation and those who have lived there for less than a year….The higher the proportion of people in those categories, the less rooted the community, according to social scientists. They refer to it as the level of ‘anomie’ or the ‘feeling of not belonging’.”
Using these measures they found that the weakest communities in 1971 were stronger than the strongest communities in 2001. An astonishing 97% of neighborhoods had experienced this increased isolation over these 30 years.
“The researchers conclude that the increase in anomie weakens the “social glue” of communities. The result, they suggest, is that neighbourhoods are likely to be less trusting and more fearful.”
While the methodology is different (and far less multi-dimensional), this is of a piece with the increased social isolation and declines in social capital found by Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone over a similar period in the US (although the US declines probably began in the late 1950s/early 1960s). [For some assertions that the British civic decline is less steep, see Democracies in Flux, with a chapter by British academic Peter Hall.]
See BBC news story, “Life in UK ‘has become lonelier‘ (including a map of these trends).