Calling all lonely hearts

13 February 2018

A new survey about people’s experiences of loneliness launches today on BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind, in collaboration with Wellcome Collection.

The Loneliness Experiment is an online survey which will explore the nation’s attitudes and personal experiences. It aims to find out the factors that contribute to loneliness, the role of relationships, connection and social media, and what has aided recovery or improvements to wellbeing.

The survey is a follow-up to 2015's Rest Test which saw 18,000 people responding on their resting habits. The new survey has been developed by academics at the University of Manchester, Brunel University and the University of Exeter, with the aid of a grant from Wellcome, in the hope it will increase understanding of one of the major issues facing society today. The survey will explore areas such as:

  • At which times of life are people most likely to feel lonely? 
  • What is the role of friendship?
  • Do an individual’s personality and life circumstances affect their experience of loneliness?
  • How does new technology and social media affect loneliness?
  • How do we view people who are lonely?
  • What solutions have people found the most (and least) useful when it comes to tackling their own loneliness?
  • What is the opposite of loneliness?

People are invited to take part, whether or not they have experienced loneliness. The aim of the project is to increase understanding around prevention, as well as examining the solutions people have found most useful. 

The survey takes less than 40 minutes to complete, and those who participate will be able to see instant feedback online, tracking some of the results so far.

Claudia Hammond, presenter of Radio 4’s All in the Mind explains: 'We’ve heard a lot about loneliness in the news recently with the Jo Cox Commission and the appointment of a Minister for Loneliness. It’s clear that loneliness has been brought into focus, but there’s a lot that is still unknown about it. We want as many people as possible to take part in the Loneliness Experiment to help discover not only who is likely to feel lonely, but what it is that can propel people out of it and help them feel more connected to others.'

Pamela Qualter, Professor of Psychology at the University of Manchester who is leading the study, says: 'We want to explore how it may be linked to mental health, and whether there is any relationship, for good or bad, between loneliness and internet use. We are also keen to know if there is still a stigma surrounding loneliness. We hope that the results will provide us with a clear picture of what life is like for lonely people at different ages in the UK and beyond.' 

The results will be analysed and announced in the autumn at an event in the Reading Room at Wellcome Collection and broadcast on All in the Mind on BBC Radio 4. There will also be a Radio 4 series Anatomy of Loneliness and a set of specially commissioned dramas.

The Loneliness Experiment can be found via the BBC Radio 4 website or at 

Find more on loneliness in our archive.