Independent evidence review published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport highlights the gaps in what we know about loneliness in the UK.

By Mr Shamim Quadir(Senior Communications Officer), Published

There is a growing body of research showing that loneliness can have a harmful effect on individuals’ mental and physical health, in addition to bringing costs to public finance, particularly health and social care, and to the economy.

The ‘Tackling loneliness evidence review’ is an independent report recently published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, and highlights what we know about loneliness in the UK and the gaps in our knowledge.

The report builds on the 2018 Loneliness Strategy completed by some of the authors, and goes on to outline where the evidence has grown since then, and what more research needs to be done, or data reviewed in order to provide a more complete picture of loneliness in the UK.

It provides recommendations on how these knowledge gaps may be addressed and is aimed at a non-expert audience to enable them to appropriately inform their work, including policymakers, voluntary sector organisations and practitioners, research sector funders, clinicians, and people with lived experience of loneliness.

Lead by Pamela Qualter, Professor of Education at the University of Manchester, the group of authors highlight key areas of concern such as the stigmatisation of those who are lonely, and how loneliness may occur in the workplace.

In addition to finding ways of continuing to improve measurements of loneliness, the report outlines eight priority areas:

  • Life course
  • Social stigma
  • Societal culture
  • Mental health
  • Place and context
  • Workplace
  • Economic evaluation
  • Effectiveness of loneliness interventions

Dr Anne-Kathrin Fett, Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology, City, University of London

Dr Anne- Kathrin Fett, Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology, City, University of London co-authored the report and said:

Loneliness can be influenced by many different factors.  When it comes to place and context, we see that geographic region accounts for 5-8% variation in loneliness. However, it’s not a simple picture. Living in remote areas can be associated with poor transport or digital connectivity, social isolation of minorities and lack of opportunities to socialise outside of school. However, young people for example, report feeling particularly lonely in urban areas, including at university, that are rich in social opportunities.

On the other hand, we know that individuals with higher trust in the inhabitants of their neighbourhoods feel less lonely and higher neighbourhood social cohesion has been associated with better mental- and physical health. The findings suggest that some ways in which we might tackle loneliness lie in the characteristics of the places in which people live.  However, research will be needed to address knowledge gaps around the exact mechanisms through which place-based factors exert their influence on loneliness.

Find out more

Read the report, ‘Tackling loneliness evidence review’, on the UK Government’s website.

Visit the Department of Psychology at City, University of London.