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The Fear of Going Out – the latest epidemic sweeping our sofas

Does your WhatsApp habit and box set viewing schedule mean your social life is suffering?

By Jo Dunbar

You have at least half a dozen box sets cued up and ready to watch; thanks to Just Eat or Deliveroo you can order the food of your choice direct to your sofa; it’s wet and windy and February. Who could blame you for making your excuses to the WhatsApp group and staying in?

Well, you are not alone. It turns out that the British are in the grip of an epidemic of FOGO. Forget FOMO, the Fear Of Going Out is here and it’s real. We could bill it as a reaction to our personal finances. But we can still afford a takeaway and Netflix.

When the hygge culture explosion arrived on the British Isles in 2016, we were granted permission to abandon our social lives in favour of fleecy blankets and scented candles because it was a nod to a healthy Danish lifestyle and would drastically improve our wellbeing.

Abandon our social lives we did and according to research, now a quarter of us* are so comfortable with the idea of cancelling plans with our friends at the last minute, that we are doing it regularly. Our phones are getting the brunt of the blame here. After all, it’s far easier to fire off a quick text or WhatsApp message than dial a number and relay an excuse…

While it’s unlikely your bailing out of an arrangement with friends will land you in much hot water, flakiness does have financial consequences. Small business and restaurants are crying out for punters – worth considering next time you move to cancel a longstanding reservation with a flick of your iPhone.

Technology could also be the reason why we are filling our social media-friendly calendars so fast: sipping on Instagram-worthy cocktails, checking into a cool new pub or being tagged having fun all add pressure to have a good time. And all these plans are fine until you (and your bank balance) need a night or two off.

Our phones make it super easy to then start shedding arrangements quicker than you can say ‘pass the remote.’

But if feelings that you can’t face a night out are a regular occurrence and spill into anxiety territory or cause a panic attack, then it could be a trigger for needing some professional help. Agoraphobia is a rare condition but mental health charity MIND has seen a rise in cases of agoraphobia among women – nhs.uk/conditions/agoraphobia/

While box set culture and winter weather means we are all aiming for cosy nights in, for the time being, our fondness to embrace FOGO could have lasting effects on our society. Are the latest statistics calling the UK the loneliest capital of Europe just a coincidence? Figures revealed** that 9 million adults in Britain suffer from loneliness.

While this is obviously a huge health and social care issue, maybe we need to be less quick to shut the front door, pull the curtains and reach for the cosy dressing gown and instead, honour the plans we made.

*Survey by Bookatable
**study by The Co-op and The British Red Cross

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