Today we launch our brief guide on measuring loneliness aimed at charities and social enterprises. Ingrid Abreu Scherer, Civil Society and Wellbeing Lead, explains how the guidance can help you understand your project’s impact, and how your evaluation can help us build the evidence on loneliness.

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Hundreds of charities, social enterprises and community groups across the country are working to alleviate loneliness and help people feel more connected to each other. But what’s the best way to know if their activities are working?

Following our review of loneliness interventions, and the Government’s strategy to tackle loneliness in England (launched last Autumn), the Office for National Statistics worked with a panel of experts to recommend a set of questions to help measure loneliness. These measures will be used in research and national surveys to help us build a better picture of loneliness, and this guide will help you use these measures in your evaluations. As well as setting out the the national measures for adults and children, we also recommend other measures that can help build a picture of people’s social relationships, how they feel about their communities, and other factors involved in feelings of loneliness.

Realistic guidance for charities

The guide is aimed at anyone wanting to understand the impact of their charity on loneliness, especially people with responsibility for monitoring and evaluation. It takes a realistic approach to evaluation to avoid overloading charities and the people they support with too many questions. It acknowledges the strengths of small organisations in collecting evidence about people’s personal journeys, and gives advice on how to have conversations about a sometimes difficult and sensitive topic.

What’s in the guidance

For organisations that work to alleviate loneliness and help people feel more connected, the guidance sets out:

  • what we mean by loneliness and what the evidence says so far;
  • the national measures for adults and children, and how to use them;
  • other related measures that can help build a picture of people’s social relationships;
  • how to have conversations about loneliness and capture qualitative data;
  • how to make sense of your results, and how to compare your findings to a national picture.

Using the template

We wanted the guidance to be as practical as possible, so to complement it we’ve created a downloadable questionnaire template to use as part of your evaluation. This sets out the national loneliness measures for adults, and also includes the other recommended measures from the guide. It includes questions about:

  • people’s overall wellbeing;
  • their relationships and sense of loneliness;
  • how they feel about their community;
  • some suggestions about relevant demographic measures.

Loneliness and wellbeing

We know that those projects that are trying to alleviate loneliness are also aiming to improve the overall wellbeing of people they work with. If you’re interested in evaluating the wellbeing impact of your project, take a look at our online guide for measuring wellbeing impact. You can use it alongside this guidance on loneliness to understand the full effect your activities are having on people’s lives.

Share your experience

We want to know how people get on with using these measures in their evaluations. If you’re already using them, or have tried them out, let us know so we can learn from your experience. If you try out the guidance and have some feedback about what it contains, let us know so we can improve it.

Are you are a grant-holder for the Building Communities Fund?

You will soon be able to find specific measurement guidance, developed by New Philanthropy Capital, available for download in our loneliness section.

More on loneliness from the Office for National Statistics

Read about the ONS work on the loneliness measurement landscape, the recommended national indicators of loneliness and the question testing underpinning the national measures can be found on their website.