the big lujnch letters on teh grass with a man preparing to invite a few neighbours over for a chat as part of the big Lunch month of community

Are we ready to support those feeling socially anxious?

Commissioned by The Big Lunch this poll of 4,000 UK residents shows that millions of us are worried about increasing social pressure now that lockdown measures are beginning to lift, but we can all do something where we live with The Big Lunch this June.

New research  reveals more than half of the UK population has some anxiety about socialising without restrictions, with 10% going as far as to say they are scared.

People living in Northern Ireland feel slightly less anxious about the return to socialising without restrictions than those in any other UK region; but 32% say it will be a long time before they’ll feel comfortable socialising in the same way as they did pre-pandemic similar to the nation average of 38%.

Commissioned by The Big Lunch this poll of 4,000 UK residents shows that millions of us are worried about increasing social pressure now that lockdown measures are beginning to lift.

TV presenter and comedian Jo Brand, has been a Big Lunch Ambassador for five years. She can relate to the survey findings: “Whilst I’m chomping at the bit to see family and friends again; I certainly won’t be front of the queue dishing out hugs when my local rave club reopens. Everyone has their own social roadmap to what they will feel comfortable doing. We all need to go at our own pace and that’s just fine. The real positive to come from this research though is that 12 million people are now closer to their neighbours than before the pandemic. So, if anyone is feeling anxious about diving back in to the socialising pool, then The Big Lunch is the perfect way to dip a toe back in the metaphorical shallow end. Just fling open the door and wave an egg vol-u-vaunt over the back fence during a natter with the neighbours.   We need to remember how to talk to real-life human beings again, so why not start with the human beings next door?”

The survey, was conducted by OnePoll for The Big Lunch, an idea from Eden Project, partnered with National Lottery and supported by Iceland Foods.

The Big Lunch brings millions of people together in their neighbour hoods every year and last year for the first time in its 12-year history, the event was moved online to adhere to Covid lockdown measures. Over 4 million people took part in The Big ‘Virtual’ Lunch, with events running online, on the phone and socially distanced on the doorstep.

The research conducted in April 2021 suggests high levels of re-entry anxiety and concerns about our ability to socialise as we come out of the latest lockdown period.  However, despite 64 per cent of respondents worrying about socialising with large groups or in crowded places, the research found that three quarters of the population are comfortable with soon meeting smaller groups locally for picnics or community BBQs.

The Big Lunch One Poll also found that:

  • A quarter of the population is worried about their ability to readjust to normal levels of social interaction again
  • 64 per cent of people are worried about visiting crowded places, and
  • The nation is divided on physical contact with half (53%) saying they feel confident and comfortable with the idea of hugging once restrictions are lifted and the other half planning to keep their distance

Despite a high percentage of the population feeling worried about socialising post lockdown, over 25million of us feel relieved at the idea we’ll be able to socialise without restrictions in the coming months and 30 per cent actively excited at the prospect.

Grainne McCloskey Northern Ireland manager for Eden Project Communities said: “This year, The Big Lunch will be part of a month of community in June. There are so many people feeling vulnerable about getting back out in our communities. Im sure anyone reading can think of at least one person that might need a little support. We can all do a little bit to help encourage and ease that nervousness. This year you can participate in The Big Lunch with a series of smaller actions. Pizza in teh park, a coffee and cake with a neighbour, local lunchtime acts of kindness. just pledge acts of kindness for your community and help reduce the social anxiety that we know exists. 


The Big Lunch brings people together.

Now more than ever on 6-7 June, Find out more at



About the research


This online survey of 4,000 adults living in the United Kingdom was commissioned on behalf of The Big Lunch and conducted by market research company OnePoll in April 2021.




About The Big Lunch

Launch film for online use



Big Lunch Version -

  • Over 20 million people have re-entry anxiety
  • Over 55 per cent of the population feel anxious, apprehensive or scared about socialising without restrictions, with women feeling this the most
  • 1 in 5 of us are worried about social pressure increasing post lockdown
  • 10 million worry they have forgotten how to have a proper conversation
  • BUT  12 million people now feel closer to their neighbours and almost three quarters of the population are now comfortable meeting small groups locally outside
  • It’s time to get socially fit says Comedian Jo Brand
Last updated 4 months 4 weeks ago
national lottery
National Lottery partners The Big Lunch 2021