House of Commons Library

Tackling loneliness

Published Monday, August 5, 2019

The Government's Loneliness Strategy was published in October 2018. It set out a wide variety of cross-departmental measures that the Government would take to provide 'national leadership' to tackle loneliness in England. As well as explaining the Strategy and the steps taken so far by the Government, this paper also looks at research into the causes and impact of loneliness and possible interventions. Finally, this briefing also briefly outlines the situation in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Jump to full report >>

The latest official figures suggest that just under half of adults in England experience loneliness occasionally or more often. The proportion of adults reporting that they often or always feel lonely (6%) shows little variation by gender or by region, but the data does suggest that younger people are more likely to report feeling frequently lonely. Certain groups are also associated with an increased risk of loneliness, such as those with a long-term disability, widowed homeowners, unmarried middle-agers, and young renters.

Studies have found links between loneliness (or social isolation) and poorer health outcomes, such as early death, higher rates of depression and cognitive decline. This may lead to higher costs in the public and private sector due to greater service usage, absences and productivity losses.

For further reading, the Library has also published a Loneliness reading list which provides links to other loneliness research.

The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness published its report, Combatting loneliness one conversation at a time: A call to action, in December 2017. Many of its recommendations were taken up by the Government, including creating a “Minister for Loneliness” by adding cross-government work on loneliness to the remit of the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport and Civil Society. The Government also announced two funds relevant to combating loneliness – £98 million for the healthy ageing programme and £20 million (including a new £11 million Building Connections Fund) to support organisations working to combat loneliness. 

The Government’s loneliness strategy, A connected society: A Strategy for tackling loneliness – laying the foundations for change, was published in October 2018. It explained how the UK Government would provide ‘national leadership’ through a range of measures. These include (but are not limited to):

  • a commitment by the Government to use measures developed by the Office for National Statistics as its standard way of measuring loneliness. The strategy also encourages other organisations to do the same;
  • a range of initiatives to enable everyday services to connect those at risk of loneliness to support, such as social prescribing;
  • initiatives centred on local infrastructure, enabling people to use community spaces, and efforts to ensure loneliness is considered in the housing and planning system;
  • exploring how to reduce the stigma around loneliness and raise awareness of the importance of social connections; and
  • efforts to support community groups and promote digital inclusion.

The Minster for Sport and Civil Society will lead on the Strategy. They will be supported by a cross-government ministerial group, which will publish an annual progress report on the loneliness agenda.

The Loneliness Strategy extends to England only. However, the Government aims to ensure that work is ‘complementary’ with that of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland published its own loneliness strategy (A Connected Scotland) in December 2018; a Welsh strategy is in development.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8514

Authors: Alexander Bellis; Sarah Barber; Georgina Hutton; Robert Long; Tom Powell; Wendy Wilson; Louisa Brooke-Holland; Lorraine Conway; Richard Cracknell; David Foster; Gabrielle Garton Grimwood; Andrew Haylen; Susan Hubble; Tim Jarrett

Topics: Children and families, Mental health, Older people

Share this page

Stay up to date

  • Subscribe to RSS feed Subscribe to Email alerts Commons Briefing papers

House of Commons Library

The House of Commons Library provides research, analysis and information services for MPs and their staff.