Nesta is supporting a coalition of charities and advocates calling for a renewed focus on tackling loneliness and building community
With a general election on the horizon, and issues such as the cost of living, the NHS and the environment taking centre stage, it is vital that policymakers do not lose focus on the issue of loneliness.
We’ve written before about loneliness, and its association with poor health, both physical and mental, emphasising the need to ensure it remains a priority on the political agenda.
Nesta is supporting a coalition of UK charities and advocates issuing a call to action: ‘Tackling Loneliness and Building Community’.
Led by the British Red Cross, the Campaign to End Loneliness, and the Jo Cox Foundation (with Nesta among its 14 signatories), and based on input from more than 100 advocates and organisations, the call to action lays out key priorities for government action towards rebuilding connected communities and reducing the damaging impact of loneliness.
These include retaining a Minister for Loneliness (a post first appointed in 2018), setting out a refreshed policy on loneliness, and introducing accountability mechanisms to ensure loneliness reduction targets are met.
Understanding loneliness should be a public health priority
Over seven percent of people in the UK say they are often or always lonely, according to recent data from the Office for National Statistics. Since 2020, the number of people who are chronically lonely has risen by half a million.
But whilst loneliness is now recognised as a public health issue, we still don’t really understand the effect of reducing loneliness on improving healthy years lived or broader health outcomes - an understanding crucial to developing effective health strategies. That’s why tackling this epidemic will require a determined push to build the research on loneliness interventions.
One of the main goals of the 2018 Government Loneliness strategy was to improve the evidence base. It has been 5 years since that intention was set, and progress has been made, but it is now time to push further. A recent publication by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) outlined evidence for what works to help loneliness. Now’s the time for the government to build on this greater understanding of the most promising interventions and our understanding of the importance of building community connectedness, and take meaningful action.
To contribute to this ourselves, we have an exciting project on examining the impact of loneliness on health (collaborating with the University of Bristol and Amsterdam UMC). This project uses novel data analysis methods (such as Mendelian Randomisation and Sibling Control Analysis) to understand whether and how loneliness might cause poor health.
Committing to Action
‘Tackling Loneliness and Building Community’ provides priorities for action and gives direction on where the government can best focus their efforts in tackling loneliness.
We hope that political leaders will recognise the prevalence of loneliness as a long-term social problem, pay attention to the growing understanding of the most promising interventions, and pledge to build connectedness.
By taking on board the recommendations of this coalition of leading voices, politicians can take meaningful action to push back against the effects of loneliness in our communities.