Dealing with loneliness

Why we feel lonely, the link with mental well-being, and some ideas to try if you are feeling isolated and it's affecting your mental health

Loneliness isn't just being alone. You can spend most of your time alone and not feel lonely. Or you can have plenty of social contact and interaction with friends and family, be in a relationship with a partner, and still feel lonely.

We can describe loneliness as the feeling we experience if there is a mismatch between the social connection and interaction we have and that which we desire or need. It is dependent on the quality, rather than quantity, of these interactions, and our experience of loneliness is often accompanied by a feeling of dissatisfaction.

Though loneliness is not a mental health problem in itself, the two are closely linked. Loneliness can often lead and develop into a mental health problem and a mental health problem can increase your likeliness of feeling lonely.

Loneliness can affect us all

Loneliness is not limited to any section or demographic of society – loneliness impacts us all. At some point in our lives, all of us will feel lonely.

A 2023 survey from the Marmalade Trust revealed that 85 per cent of UK adults had experienced loneliness in the last 12 months. Meanwhile, a survey from the Belonging Forum in 2023 found that one in three (33 per cent) of older people report that they feel they don't belong in their neighbourhood; women aged 18-24 feel lonelier than the general population (51 per cent versus 29 per cent); and one in five disabled people feel lonely often or always.

Causes of loneliness

Loneliness can have a diverse array of causes, which are often highly personal and subjective. But there are certain life events and circumstances than can lead to loneliness such as:

  • Bereavement
  • Break-up in relationships, whether family, friends or partners
  • Moving to a new area
  • Starting a new job
  • Starting at university
  • Retiring from work
  • Being estranged from family
  • Having no friends or family or living far away from them
  • Having less free time for socialising, due to being a single parent or carer
  • Having a disability which excludes you from social activities
  • Financial constraints which stop you from being able to go to social events and activities
  • Belonging to a minority group and living in an area without many others of the same minority group
  • Experience of discrimination due to sexuality, gender or race
  • Previous experience of abuse and maltreatment from family, friends or partners
  • Certain neurological conditions.

Ideas if you're feeling lonely

Loneliness is a complex issue and there are no simple answers. There are, however, some things you can do if you're feeling lonely:

  • Explore your interests and meet new people by signing up for a club or classes. Look for local clubs and organisations in your area.
  • Volunteering is another great way to meet new people. Look at the local charities in your area and contact them to see if they are looking for volunteers. Volunteering can come in diverse forms, from working in a retail shop to getting out into the countryside and helping with conservation groups. Find out about volunteering with West Sussex Mind.
  • Many mental health charities, such as West Sussex Mind, have a peer support and befriender service available, where you can receive help and support from people who have gone through similar experiences. If you are struggling and would like help, contact West Sussex Mind.
  • Online clubs, groups and classes are a great way to meet new people. There is a wide variety of clubs, groups and classes based on a vast range of interests and hobbies. Online clubs are particularly great for people with mobility issues, because through apps like Zoom or Microsoft Teams you can socially interact with people from the safety and convenience of your own home.
  • Talk to friends and family more regularly using online platforms, such as Facetime, Zoom and Teams.
  • Though social media and online platforms can be a great way to communicate with others, they can also be quite isolating. When online, we are presented with an image of what someone wants us to see and we often compare ourselves to this image. This can make us feel inadequate and as if we are the only ones who are lonely or suffering from poor mental health. Social interaction via social media can often be quite superficial, therefore not providing us with meaningful conversation. Consider taking a break from social media.
  • Therapy, specifically talking therapy, is a good way to explore your feelings and talk to a professional about ways you can help improve your mental well-being.
  • Try opening up to friends and family to improve your level of communication. But if this isn’t possible, consider contacting a mental health professional to talk to in a more meaningful way.
  • Get out and about. Go for a walk and take in natural surroundings. Though it won’t cure loneliness, getting outside and exploring nature has been shown to have beneficial impact on our mental well-being.
  • Consider having a pet or volunteering for an animal care organisation/charity as our interaction with animals can help reduce feelings of loneliness.
  • Eat healthy and exercise regularly. Diet and the amount of exercise we take can have a large impact on our mood, which in turn can have an influence on our overall mental health.
  • Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drinking too much alcohol, smoking too much or over reliance on caffeine.

Remember, if you are struggling, please reach out. No one should have to suffer alone.

Contact our Help Point, Monday to Friday, 10am-4pm on 0300 303 5652, email

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