Social Isolation and Loneliness

Loneliness is also a common emotion and it is likely that, at some point in our lives and whatever our age, we will experience it. Various studies estimating the levels of loneliness in Great Britain show that 5 – 16% of people aged 65 or over report feeling lonely all or most of the time and up to a further 30% say they feel lonely “sometimes”.  Loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health: research shows that lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day (Holt-Lunstad, 2015).

Risk factors that increase the likelihood of someone experiencing loneliness. These included living in rural environments with poor transport connections, having a lack of family nearby, having a caring responsibility, living on a low income, bereavement, poor mobility, losing hearing and/or sight, and having certain long-term conditions (such as dementia), as well as a range of other possible characteristics, situations, or experiences. Sometimes, a person experiences multiple risk factors simultaneously.

Source – Campaign to End Loneliness

Very Brief Intervention


How often would you say you take part in hobbies or social activities?

Do you have any particular hobbies or outside interests that you enjoy doing?

Are you happy with the way you spend your time?

Do you have a network of friendships and relationships?

  • Is this via telephone contact, social media or in person etc

Do you have a close friend or family member that you could turn to for support if you needed it?

Would you feel comfortable asking for help at any time from friends of family?

Would you rather spend you time?

  • On your own?
  • With family?
  • With friends?

Would you say that your relationships are as you would want them to be?

  • Facilitate a conversation about loneliness, using the skills and qualities of empathy, openness, warmth and respect, and help people to understand their own circumstances and plan their own solutions.
  • Allow the person to tell their story, to review their loneliness and what is happening now.


What would you like to be doing differently, and how would that make your feel?

Is there anything you would like to change about the way you spend your time?

Can I give you some information to help support the opportunities we discussed?

Would these things make a difference to you?

  • The goals should be the individual’s
  • Help the person identify the incentives in tackling their loneliness: what benefits will accrue for the person? Are there factors that make change necessary?


Self Care

Although most people need some kind of social contact to maintain good mental health, everyone has different social needs. The person may be someone who is content with a few close friends, or they may need a large group of varied acquaintances to feel satisfied.

State that the simplest way to ease feelings of loneliness can be to try to meet more, or different, people. 

  • Can they think of anything they are interested in, a class or a group they have heard of, that could help connect them with new people? See Useful contacts for ideas of how to find groups.  The Red Cross Connecting Communities team can help you connect with your local community and meet new friends.
  • Volunteering is a good way of meeting people. Helping others can also really help improve mental health. See useful contacts for organisations that can help someone find local volunteering opportunities.
  • Join an online community. See useful contacts for some suggestions.

The Coronavirus (Covid-19) and Loneliness, What can you do to support people in your local community?

It is particularly important for people who

  • are 70 or over
  • have a long-term condition
  • are pregnant
  • have a weakened immune system

People in these groups have been asked to apply social distancing, you can support people who are doing this by asking if you could:

Pick up shopping, drop off a letter to post, collect a prescription, give a them a friendly call, or even add them to a local community What's app group.  We have collated a range of resources which can be found on the Yorkshire and Humber Public Health Network Website

Contact Cards

Help your neighbours - #viralkindness contact card

Facebook groups

Covid Mutual Aid UK is a group of volunteers supporting local community groups organising mutual aid 


Loneliness in Older People

The Silver Line - A free confidential helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people. The Silver Line can also put people in contact with community activities in your local area.

Tel: 0800 470 8090 - Open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.   


AGE UK - This organisation has a a befriending service to support loneliness in later life, this is where a volunteer visits an older person once a week in their own home.  There is also telephone befriending, where a volunteer befriender will phone an older person.

Website:  Click on befriending services and input postcode of individual to find local Age concern services.

NHS Choices has a range of advice on Loneliness including volunteering, continuing education and how to engage with social media and computers.

Loneliness in Younger People

It is recognised that Loneliness is not something that is exclusive to older adult, indeed many younger adults in particular can experience loneliness and a recent report from the office for national statistics highlighted Britain as the loneliest capital of Europe.  

The Samaritans are available around the clock, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This number is FREE to call on 116 123

GET CONNECTED - A free confidential helpline for young people, where people can seek help with emotional and mental health issues often linked to loneliness.

Tel: 0808 808 4994 - The service is available 365 days a year and young people can get in touch by phone, webchat, email, text message or use the online help directory, WebHelp 24/7.



It doesn’t really matter who you talk to first. Some ideas would include: a friend, family member, anonymous listening service like  Samaritans, student union welfare rep, personal tutor, students support services staff member, counsellor, or doctor. Decide who is the best person for you to talk to first. Be realistic about what each person can offer. If it doesn’t work out, try someone else. Talk to more than one person.

Local Support and Contact Details