Loneliness is a common feeling and something that we’re all likely to feel from time to time. Feelings of loneliness are very personal and everyone’s experience of feeling lonely will be different.
Loneliness is described as a feeling that we get when we do not meet our needs for rewarding social contact and relationships. However, being alone and being lonely are not the same thing. We may choose to spend time alone and live happily without much contact with others, while for others this may be a lonely experience.
It may also be the case that you have lots of social contact, be in a relationship and have family and friends around you, and still feel lonely.
Causes of loneliness
There are many different causes of loneliness, but some of the most common causes include major life events such as:
- Experiencing a bereavement
- Going through a divorce or relationship break-up
- Moving to a new area away from friends and family
- Retiring and losing the regular social contact you experienced at work
Who is susceptible to loneliness?
Anyone can suffer from loneliness at various points in their life. Whilst loneliness is often seen as something experienced by the older generation, research suggests that those living in certain circumstances, or belonging to particular groups, might be most vulnerable to loneliness. For example, if you:
- have no friends or family
- are not in contact with your family
- have caring responsibilities or are a single parent
- belong to a minority group and live in a community without others from a similar background
- experience discrimination and stigma because of your gender, race or sexual orientation, or because of a disability or long-term health problem
What is the impact on health and wellbeing?
Long-term loneliness is associated with an increased risk of certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and increased stress. This has also been associated with health impacts that are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
If you are feeling lonely...
- Try calling or seeing a friend, family member, health professional or counsellor to talk about your feelings.
- Join a group or class that focuses on something you enjoy – that could be anything from an exercise class or group to a cookery class or book club.
- Consider visiting places where you can be around other people - for example, a park, the cinema or a café.
- Contact the Samaritans, call: 116 123 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org if you need someone to talk to.
- Visit the NHS or Mind website for further support and information.
Page updated: 19/05/2022 15:31:30