The Campaign to End Loneliness have released their new report 'The Psychology of Loneliness'. It is the first of its kind to look at how we can use approaches from psychology to address loneliness. It looks at how loneliness affects how people think and feel and how to provide better support for people who feel lonely or are at risk of feeling lonely.
In an article to mark the launch of the report, the Campaign to End Loneliness’ Head of Research, Policy and Innovation, Dr Kalpa Kharicha, stresses the importance of using psychological approaches to help tackle loneliness, and why it’s important for more research to be carried out in this area:
“We know a lot about the factors that can lead to older people feeling isolated and excluded and the life events that can contribute or trigger loneliness in later life. But we know less about the ‘internal’ factors that can shape someone’s experience of loneliness and cause loneliness to become more severe. Launching this report during the Coronavirus pandemic, we recognise the profound impact it has had on our social behavior and ability to connect with people and our environment. Understanding the ‘internal’ experience of loneliness and how we can respond to it has never been more relevant.”
How people understand why they are lonely can also make a difference to their experience of loneliness.
Loneliness can become chronic if it is seen as something we cannot change. Believing that loneliness is part of who we are, and that we are to blame for it in some way because our relationships are not what we would like them to be, can make loneliness harder to ‘shift’.
If loneliness is considered an expected part of becoming older, either by the person themselves or the society in which they live, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy and make loneliness in later life more likely.
This video from Ageing Better Camden encapsulates the psychological elements around loneliness and how recognising them can really shift someone's social experience for the better:
Whilst we don’t know how these factors influence each other, we can see that psychology matters in our understanding of loneliness. And we need to draw on this, along with what we already know about the social and structural influences on loneliness, when we develop support for people who are lonely.
The Psychology of Loneliness report is a result of the Building Connections Fund, part of the UK Government's Loneliness Strategy. Download the report here.