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 ‚Äď 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 ‚Äúsometimes‚ÄĚ. ¬†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 ‚Äď Campaign to End Loneliness

Very Brief Intervention


What do you like to do with your time?

What hobbies or interests do you have?

How often would you say you do your hobbies or social activities?

How do you feel about how you spend your time?

How would you describe your network of friends and family?

Which friends or family members could you turn to for support if you needed it?

Would you rather spend your 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.


How would you like things to be?

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

What would make a difference to you?’

Are there people who model what you would like to be doing/how you would like it to be?

What needs to happen for (the change) to take place?

What do you think stops you from making that change?


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.

Loneliness in Older People

  • The Silver Line is the only free confidential helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people, open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. ¬†Call 0800 470 8090. ¬†The Silver¬†Line can also put you in contact with community activities in your local area
  • Age UK has 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¬†Telephone befriending, where a volunteer befriender will phone an older person.
  • 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 loneliness capital of Europe. ¬†
  • Whilst on the outside young people can be very well connected on social media but if this replaces face-to-face contact then it can add to a feeling of loneliness. ¬†Some people also present an idealised version of themselves online and we expect to have social lives like those portrayed in the media.
  • Helplines can reduce loneliness, at least in the short term
  • 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¬†is a free confidential helpline for young people, where people can seek help with emotional and mental health issues often linked to loneliness.
  • It doesn‚Äôt really matter who you talk to first. Some ideas would include: a friend, family member, anonymous listening service like Nightline or the 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‚Äôt work out, try someone else. Talk to more than one person.

Local Support and Contact Details