Small Talk Saves Lives


The UK public may be internationally renowned for being more reserved but a new survey by Samaritans shows how much we rely on small talk, even with the limiting social restrictions of the pandemic. A YouGov survey found that over three quarters of UK adults (78%) used small talk during the pandemic, whilst almost one in five of those surveyed say they are more likely to want to make small talk with a stranger face to face once restrictions are lifted (19%).*  

Just over half of those who are more likely to want to make small talk said it was because they now recognise the importance of human connection (51%) and with 39% of respondents saying they also appreciate the sense of community the pandemic brought out in people. Whilst during pandemic restrictions, people said they made small talk with neighbours they hadn’t spoken to before and with strangers at the supermarket (both 37%).*

Despite the unprecedented events of the last year, the weather still remains the go-to subject for striking up conversation, chosen by 71% of people, compared to coronavirus in second place with 45%.*

The findings come as Samaritans launches a new phase of Small Talk Saves Lives, in partnership with Network Rail, British Transport Police and the wider rail industry, to empower the public to act to prevent suicide on the railways and other settings.

Initially launched in 2017, Small Talk Saves Lives was developed after research showed passengers have a key role to play in suicide prevention. The latest phase of Small Talk Saves Lives has the backing from leading suicide prevention expert and psychologist, Associate Professor Lisa Marzano, from Middlesex University. Further new research from Marzano has confirmed that when asked, people with experience of suicidal thoughts said that verbal interventions, including small talk, providing reassurance and listening, are the most helpful things a person can do to respond to someone in a crisis.


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