Mental Health Support
05 Jun 2024
You don't have to be alone to feel lonely.

What is the link between loneliness and mental health? And what can you do if you are feeling lonely? 

Loneliness isn’t just being alone. You can spend most of your time alone and not feel lonely. Or you can have plenty of social contact and interaction with friends and family, be in a relationship and still feel lonely. 

Loneliness can be described as the feeling we experience if there is a mismatch between the level of social connection and interaction we have and that which we desire or need – and it depends on the quality, rather than quantity, of these interactions. Our experience of loneliness can be also accompanied by a feeling of dissatisfaction. 

Though loneliness is not a mental health problem itself, the two are closely linked. Loneliness can often lead and develop into a mental health problem and a mental health problem can increase your likelihood of feeling lonely. 

Loneliness is not limited to any section or demographic of society – it can impact anyone. At some point in our lives, all of us will feel lonely.  It’s a common misconception that loneliness is limited to older people. For example, a 2023 survey from the Belonging Forum found that women aged 18-24 feel lonelier than the general population (51 per cent versus 29 per cent), while one in five disabled people feel lonely often or always. Meanwhile a survey from the Marmalade Trust in 2023 revealed that 85 per cent of UK adults had experienced loneliness in the last 12 months. 

Causes of loneliness 

The roots of a person’s loneliness are diverse and highly personal and subjective. But there are certain life events and circumstances than can lead to loneliness such as: 

  • bereavement 
  • break-up in relationships, whether family, friends or partners 
  • moving to a new and different area 
  • starting a new job 
  • starting at university 
  • retiring from work 
  • being estranged from family 
  • having no friends or family or living far away from friends or family 
  • having less free time for socialising, due to being a single parent or carer 
  • having a disability which excludes you from social activities 
  • financial constraints which stop you from being able to go to social events and activities 
  • belonging to a minority group and living in an area without many others of the same minority group 
  • experience of discrimination due to sexuality, race or gender 
  • previous experience of abuse and maltreatment from family, friends or partners 
  • certain neurological conditions 


Loneliness is a complex issue and there is no quick fix. But there are things you can do to try to alleviate feelings of loneliness, such as: 

  • Explore your interests and try to meet new people by signing up for a club or classes. Look for local clubs and organisations in your area. 
  • Volunteering is another great way to meet new people. Look at the local charities in your area and contact them to see if they are looking for volunteers. Volunteering can come in diverse forms, from working in a retail shop to getting out into the countryside and helping with conservation groups.  
  • Many of the mental health organisations in the Pathfinder alliance have peer support or befriender services, where you can receive help and support from people who have gone through similar experiences.  
  • Online clubs, groups and classes are a good way to meet new people and cater to a vast range of interests and hobbies. Online clubs are particularly great for people with mobility issues, because through apps like Zoom or Microsoft Teams you can socially interact with people from the safety and convenience of your own home. 
  • Try to talk to friends and family more regularly using online platforms, such as Facetime and Zoom, particularly if friends and family live far away. 
  • Though social media and online platforms can be a great way to communicate with others, they can also be quite isolating. When we are online, we are presented with an image of what someone wants us to see and we can compare ourselves to this image. This can make us feel inadequate and as if we are the only ones who are lonely or suffering from poor mental health. Taking a break from social media can help. 
  • Therapy, specifically talking therapy, is a good way to explore your feelings and talk to a professional about ways you can help improve your mental well-being. 
  • Try opening up to friends and family to improve your level of communication. But if this isn’t possible, consider contacting a mental health professional to talk to in a more meaningful way. 
  • Get out and about. Go for a walk and take in natural surroundings. Though it won’t cure loneliness, getting outside and exploring nature has been shown to have beneficial impact on our mental well-being. 
  • Consider having a pet or volunteering for an animal care organisation as our interaction with animals can help reduce feelings of loneliness. 
  • Eat healthily and exercise regularly. Diet and the amount of exercise we take can have a large impact on our mood, which in turn can have an influence on our overall mental health. 
  • Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drinking too much alcohol, smoking or over reliance on caffeine.