Almost a 5th of the population- that’s over 9 million people in the UK- say that they feel lonely always or often [2]. Loneliness can affect people at any age, with people aged 16-24 being the loneliest age group in the UK [3]. 

This week (15th-21st June) is Loneliness Awareness WeekWe’ve put together some information about what causes loneliness, what to do if you osomeone you know feels lonely, tips on how to manage feelings of loneliness and places to get support.  

What is loneliness?  

Loneliness is a perceived mismatch between the quality or quantity of social connections that a person has and what they would like to have [1]. 

Feelings of loneliness are normally- they are a sign that we might like more social contact.  

What causes loneliness? 

Feelings of loneliness can be caused by lots of different things. However, there are life transitions that might increase the likelihood of feelings of loneliness:  
 

  • Experiencing a bereavement 
  • Going through a relationship break-up 
  • Starting a new job  
  • Moving home
  • Becoming a new parent 

The social distancing measures undertaken to manage the COVID-19 pandemic have increased feelings of loneliness, especially amongst those living alone and those continuing to shield.  

What to do if you or someone you know feels lonely and wants to connect with others?  

We have listed some strategies to use if you are feeling lonely. It might take a couple of attempts to make social connections using these suggestions, but don’t give up.  

If you know someone who is feeling lonely, ask them what they need and what they would like to do next. A common response can be to think of lots of different ways to help, but we are all different and understanding how loneliness is impacting on the other person is the first step to supporting them to make changes. Also remember that if someone has been feeling lonely for a long time, it can make it harder for them to make new connections or respond to friendly contact so be kind and empathetic.  

Connect with old friends 

There are lots of ways to reach out to old friends; pick up the phone,  send a letter or postcard, reach out via social media, organise a video call or arrange to watch a film or TV programme at the same time and make a video call.  

Make new social connections  

Joining a group based on activities on hobbies that you enjoy or would like to learn provides you with the added bonus of others who have similar interests. Help on Your Doorstep’s virtual activities enable you to take part in a range of activities from Zumba to football. They are a great way to meet others within the community, even during lockdown.  

Become a volunteer 

Use your skills and interests to help others. Volunteering placements often offer the opportunity to meet others and can give a sense of contributing positively to the wider community. For local volunteering opportunities, check out Voluntary Action Islington: (Add link). 

Striking up conversations  

Saying hello to a neighbour, person at the bus stop or the queue at the supermarket can have a positive impact on how you feel. Striking up conversations with people that you see regularly can lead to more significant relationships. 

Tell someone at work 

Talk to someone that you trust, such as a co-worker, line manager or HR manager, about your feelings. They may suggest weekly social catch-ups or implement more regular check-ins. You could also ‘meet colleagues’ for a virtual lunch or coffee.  

Managing feelings oloneliness  

Having strategies to help manage feelings of loneliness will help until you have managed to up social connections. For those who would rather spend time alone, these strategies can help make that time enjoyable.  

Plan in enjoyable activities  

Plan your week and include activities that you enjoy and make you feel good.  

Enjoy the outdoors 

Spending time in the park or having a walk around some of the beautiful squares in Islington can help you feel more connected to the local community and the natural world.  

Take time for self-care  

Ensuring that you are eating regularly and healthily, being active and sleeping well is vital.  

Get support from services  

Feelings of loneliness are normal. Opening up about how you feel to friends and family might lead to making connections with others who share your experiences.  

You can also talk to services of professionals such as your GP or a support worker. They may be able to help you access support such as talking therapies.  

Lots of organisations can offer support. We have listed some of these below- they can also be found in our self-help and 5 ways to wellbeing information: 

Support for older people:  

Age UK-Providing help and support in older age, including weekly friendship calls and an advice hotline. For more information visit their website

Age UK Islington is supporting clients by phone and email, rather than through face-to-face meetings and have temporarily suspended social and support groups. They are providing wellbeing support on their Age UK Islington Helpline Tel 020 7281 6018 or email [email protected], Mon to Fri, 9 – 5pm. 

Alzheimer's Society-Support and advice for those living with or helping those with Alzheimers or Dementia. For more information visit their website.  

Re-engage-They provide a friendship service where over 75's can be hosted for afternoon tea on one Sunday afternoon a month. During COVID-19 they are offering a call companion service. For more information visit their website

Independent Age - Advice on matters of care and support, money and benefits, and health and mobility, including to tackle loneliness. Ring their helpline for more information and support: Helpline 0800 319 6789 or get more information on their website. 

The Silver Line - provides support, information and friendship services for older people aged over 55 who may feel lonely.The Silver Line operates the only confidential, free helpline for older people across the UK that’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year. Call 0800 4 70 80 90 or get more information on their website.

Connecting with new people 

Help on Your Doorstep: Our Good Neighbours Schemes have put together a selection of activities from our usual partners that are accessible during the lockdown by phone and the internet - see below. Ideas from other organisations for keeping active and connected during the current crisis are in the 5 ways to wellbeing section of our website. 

Claremont Project is offering a programme of live and interactive groups and classes including Funky Disco, Yoga and Salsa. 

Elizabeth House have a free online chair yoga session for older people and online women only exercise sessions.  

Grandparents Plus  if you want to email, call or connect with them on Facebook and they regularly update the website with vital information and advice. You can also join their kinship community to hear stories and news and attend their support groups. They are continuing to support kinship carers throughout COVID-19. 

Healthy Generations are offering free and low-cost online exercise sessions, including yoga, pilates and keep fit. For more information call Healthy Generations on 0798 114 2376 or email [email protected] 

North London Cares are working on ways to help people over 65 feel connected to others during this isolating time. They are currently offering a phone friendships programmeonline and phone-in social clubs, monthly activity packs posted to you for free, signposting and help with accessing further support (such as shopping, medication pickups and other general information). Tel 020 7118 3838 or email [email protected] for more information. 

The Peel Centre in Clerkenwell, EC1 is still connecting the local community by phone, web and post. 

Talk For Health has moved online. It provides user-friendly, talk based routes to wellbeing. Participants can join using their mobiles, laptops or tablets, and those without an internet connection or smartphone can dial-in to join ongoing groups. Next taster session will be on 24th June, 6pm - 8pm. If you would like further information then please email [email protected] or call/text 0203 409 3201. 

Get emotional support  

Contact the organsations below if you need more immediate emotional support with your feelings:  
 

If you would like more health and wellbeing tips, sign up to our newsletter at the bottom of this page.  

 

References  

  1. Perlman, Daniel, and L. Anne Peplau. “Toward a social psychology of loneliness.”, 1981 
  1. British Red Cross and Co-Op, 2016