Please note that What Works Wellbeing will close operations on 30 April 2024.  Read more
Apr 21, 2022 | by Dr Emily Long

Loneliness is strongly related to poor wellbeing – and good community connections can help

Young people report the highest levels of loneliness. However, there has not been enough research into the link between loneliness and wellbeing in this age group, or what works to lessen the negative effects of loneliness on young lives.

The latest paper from the Loneliness and Wellbeing in Young People project shares important findings, including that loneliness and mental health are inherently linked, and communities and the places we live are vital in tackling young people’s loneliness. 

This pioneering project is a collaboration between the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, the Campaign to End Loneliness, the University of Manchester, and ESRC, led by Dr. Emily Long at the Institute of Health & Wellbeing Social Sciences at Glasgow University.

The second of four academic papers from the project has now been published. In this blog, the project lead Dr. Emily Long takes us through the latest findings…

Young people (aged 16-24) experience a heightened risk of loneliness. From research on older adults and young children, we know that loneliness has a negative impact on wellbeing. Yet, there has been little research examining links between loneliness and wellbeing in this age group.

We used data from 965 young people in England, aged 16-24, from the Community Life Survey to understand:

  1. Which young people are at risk of poor wellbeing.
  2. How loneliness affects wellbeing.
  3. Which aspects of young people’s lives can lessen the negative effects of loneliness on wellbeing. 

Key findings

The work found that:

  • Full time students and those with better overall health had higher wellbeing.
  • Young people with caring responsibilities had poorer wellbeing.
  • Community factors were important. We found that the following were all associated with better personal wellbeing:
    • chatting to neighbours more frequently
    • having more trust in your neighbours
    • having a greater sense of belonging to your neighbourhood.
  • Loneliness was strongly related to poorer wellbeing.
  • However, there are factors that protect against the negative effects of loneliness on wellbeing, including chatting to neighbours more often, or having a greater sense that there are people who are there for you.
    • In particular, amongst young people reporting the most loneliness, those with a greater perception that people were ‘there for’ them had higher wellbeing than equally lonely peers with a reduced sense of this emotional support. 
    • Similarly, for the loneliest young people, those who reported increased communication with neighbours had higher wellbeing than equally lonely peers. 

Next steps:

These findings suggest that:

  • Community and interpersonal relationships are key factors to target in public health interventions.
  • Social capital links pride in place and wellbeing missions in levelling up.


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