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Tackling loneliness in the community

17 June 2022 | by Guest

To mark #LonelinessAwarenessWeek we present a guest blog from Dr Mhairi Bowe, Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology in the Department of Psychology at Nottingham Trent University.

Years of research have demonstrated the detrimental impact loneliness can have on health and wellbeing.

Loneliness – the subjective emotional response to unwelcome isolation and/or disconnection – can be more harmful to health than well-known behavioural health risks such as smoking and obesity.

As a result, policy makers and health services have invested in resources to connect lonely individuals with fellow community members through prescribed links with local community services and groups.

Researchers at Nottingham Trent University have shown that this ‘social prescribing’ can be beneficial for health because it provides psychologically meaningful links to others through processes of social identification and group belonging. 

In the wake of the pandemic, the team, led by myself, Dr Mhairi Bowe, have recently used this ‘Social Cure’ approach to chart and explore experiences of loneliness and loneliness support services in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, commissioned by the Tackling Loneliness Collaborative (TLC) and Nottinghamshire County Council.

The research revealed the impact of the pandemic on loneliness experiences, particularly for already vulnerable or marginalised groups, and on services forced to quickly adapt to deliver services remotely to protect public health.

The research also revealed the transformative effects of connection with community groups prior to the pandemic and how that connection can influence wellbeing, confidence, and support which leads to a valuable sense of local community belonging.

However, it also revealed that a range of factors such as age, disability, mental health, family relationships, and gender were linked with increased loneliness and crucially that experiences of rejection or marginalisation, (even within community groups and activities), can lead to further elevations in levels of loneliness.

The team have worked with the TLC to create a series of resources and service maps to help residents, community groups, and social prescribers to create and access valuable social connections to tackle loneliness.

The research will be launched at the International Conference on Social Identity and Health at NTU this June following #LonelinessAwarenessWeek

For more information on the project contact [email protected]

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