New government research identifies clear links between loneliness and mental health distress

  • Research also finds young people, people with disabilities and the LGBTQ community are at higher risk of chronic loneliness
  • Ministers from various government departments will launch a renewed effort to tackle loneliness as part of the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic

New research published today by the government has identified direct links between chronic loneliness and mental health distress.

The findings, which coincide with the start of Loneliness Awareness Week, analyzed mental health well-being and the impacts of loneliness over an extended period, with findings showing that chronic loneliness played a significant role in the onset and continuation of mental health distress.

The analysis also shows that mental health-related distress may play an important role in the onset and continuation of chronic loneliness. Chronic loneliness is defined as people reporting that they “often” or “always” feel lonely.

This suggests that targeted early intervention may play a greater role in addressing the short-term mental health effects of loneliness.

The Minister for Civil Society and Youth will now bring together ministers from various government departments to push forward a renewed effort to tackle loneliness. The group will develop a delivery plan that builds on this new evidence and sets out new government action on loneliness early next year.

It will build on the 2018 Loneliness Strategy and the government’s work to tackle loneliness during the pandemic through its £750million charity funding scheme.

Civil Society and Youth Minister Nigel Huddleston said:

Loneliness can affect us all and research published today highlights that young people and people with disabilities, as well as those with long-term health conditions, are disproportionately affected by loneliness.

As we begin Loneliness Awareness Week, I encourage everyone to reach out to someone they think may be feeling lonely or isolated.

The government has prioritized tackling loneliness during the pandemic and we will now step up our efforts to protect those most at risk.

Since the launch of the Loneliness Strategy in 2018, the government has continued to take a leadership role around the world, including appointing the first-ever Loneliness Minister. It has teamed up with a range of charity partners to invest more than £50million to help tackle the problem, with funding helping thousands of people connect through the things that matter to them.

Independent research from the National Center for Social Research was compiled from data on more than 35,000 people aged 16 and over from 2013/14 to 2019/20. As part of the study, researchers looked at what types of people were vulnerable to loneliness, whether risk factors for loneliness had changed, the relationship between mental well-being and loneliness, and what factors alleviated loneliness. short term.

The new findings show that in addition to the link between loneliness and mental distress, specific groups of people are more vulnerable to the effects of loneliness:

  • Young people between the ages of 16 and 34 were found to be particularly at risk, with research showing they were at five times the risk of chronic loneliness than those aged 65 or older. Drivers of youth loneliness have been identified as negative social experiences, such as bullying by peers and siblings and arguments with parents.
  • People with disabilities or a long-standing health condition were 2.9 times more likely to experience chronic loneliness and were less likely to emerge from loneliness than people without disabilities.
  • Members of the LGBTQ community were also disproportionately affected, with people who identified as gay or lesbian 1.4 times more likely to be single, and people who identified as bisexual 2.5 times more likely to be alone.
  • Those in the lowest income quintile were 50% more likely to suffer from chronic loneliness than those in the richest quintile.

Mental Health Minister Gillian Keegan said:

Loneliness is a growing problem – and this research underscores the continued need to ensure those who feel lonely can access the resources they need.

We are accelerating the deployment of mental health support teams in schools and expanding community services for adults and young people to ensure that everyone can access support, as well as providing advice and useful resources on the Every Mind Matters website.

We also recently launched a call for evidence to gather opinions from the public to inform a new 10-year mental health plan that will aim to ensure the nation is in positive mental wellbeing.

Dr Sokratis Dinos, Director of Health at the National Center for Social Research (NatCen), said:

This research highlights the significant relationship between loneliness and mental health. It was shown in our study that people with chronic loneliness were almost four times more likely than people without chronic loneliness to be mentally distressed.

Poor mental health can lead to difficulty connecting with others, social withdrawal, and loneliness, while loneliness can also contribute to poor mental health. Our research highlights the benefits of targeted support for people at different life stages and community activities for people with common interests to improve outcomes.

During the pandemic, the government has made tackling loneliness a priority by earmarking loneliness as a specific target category in the government’s £750million charity funding scheme. The government continues to encourage people to ‘get someone out of loneliness’ as part of the Better Health: Every Mind Matters campaign, emphasizing the benefits of social connection this loneliness awareness week.


Notes for Editors

  1. The research results are available here and here.
  2. The research commissioned by DCMS and produced by the National Center for Social Research (NatCen) is based on Community Life Survey data from 2013/14 to 2019/20 and the Longitudinal Study of British Households (Understanding Society)
  3. The cross-Whitehall ministerial group will include ministers from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Department for Transport, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Department of Health and Social Affairs, Home Office, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Cabinet Office, Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities and Department for Education.
  4. The Ministerial Working Group will also include the Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Combating Loneliness and Connected Communities to leverage additional expertise in this area.
  5. Government funding to tackle loneliness includes the £4m Local Connections Fund which, in partnership with the National Lottery Community Fund, has awarded almost 1,700 micro-grants to charities and community groups across the UK. England.
  6. Three concrete gestures for anyone feeling alone and three gestures for those who want to help. If you are alone, you can:
    • Stay in touch with friends, family and neighbors
    • Ask for help if you need to run errands, take medicine or feel lonely
    • Establish a routine with online activities, regular chores, or volunteering
  7. If you are worried about someone who is lonely:
    • Phone a friend or family member you think is lonely
    • Smile, wave or chat from a safe distance with a neighbor
    • Help out by volunteering by picking up food, medicine or offering regular conversation to someone living alone

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