Our Older People Lead has welcomed a new report by The Campaign to End Loneliness and calls on UK governments to increase access to talking therapies to address problems that contribute to loneliness during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Jeremy Bacon said: “Anxiety and depression are not inevitable features of later life. Access to psychological support that addresses problems contributing to loneliness has never been more important and BACP welcomes this report as a timely contribution to understanding psychological aspects of loneliness.
“It’s vital that the UK governments fully recognise the psychological impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and increase access to talking therapies as part of the response to rising need.”
Jeremy added: “Our high profile Covid-19 campaign aims to help champion counselling and psychotherapy with policy makers during these challenging times.
“We've established a powerful coalition of professional bodies, service providers, trainers and individual therapists to maximise the role of counselling and psychotherapy in supporting the nation through the crisis, including addressing the problems that contribute to loneliness.”
The report compiled evidence from across the UK, including Age Better in Sheffield, a counselling service offered by Sheffield Mind for people aged 50+ who are at high risk of social isolation and loneliness. We featured some of the people who have been helped by Age Better in a video and a case study on our website.
The report is focused on older people but has lessons for all adults. It gathers the current research and evidence about psychological approaches to loneliness, as well as making policy recommendations for how this can be applied to help the millions of lonely people across the UK.
Kate Shurety, executive director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, said: “As a result of lockdown, millions of people say loneliness is affecting their wellbeing and there has been unprecedented action across all levels of government and society. The subject has never been more relevant.
“As meeting physically has often been impossible due to lockdown, there has been an increased understanding of the role of psychology to deal with loneliness.
“This report hopes to help people tackle their own loneliness and support people to better understand the emotional impact of their thoughts and feelings.”
The report found there are a number of psychological approaches that show promise for easing loneliness in later life.
The three with the most relevant research evidence were positive psychology – promoting positive emotions, helping people to override negative feelings and thought patterns – as well as mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Organisations providing services for people who may be lonely are encouraged to adjust their work to use some of the learning about the psychology of loneliness.
Group activities, social prescribing and emerging psycho-education courses can all use these insights to improve the design of their services. Many already do.
The report also said that through public campaigning, we can help individuals to understand how loneliness affects them and those around them and build this understanding into their everyday lives.
It said that for people with chronic loneliness, which may be part of a complex set of problems, or due to difficult life events such as bereavement, may be best helped by one-to-one support directly focused on helping them alleviate loneliness using psychological techniques.
Andy Langford is chief operating officer at Cruse Bereavement Care and a BACP member, who took part in our recent Working with bereavement and complex grief webinar and contributed to our briefing on the experiences of bereavement.
He said: “All of us will experience bereavement in our lives. Being bereaved can be a hugely isolating experience, and feelings and chronic loneliness is not uncommon. For many, the death of someone close can create or deepen feelings of being alone.
“As the report finds, we know that the right support at the right time can help someone who is chronically lonely. Cruse provides this support through our network of 5000 incredible trained bereavement volunteers, including via one-to-one support.
“We would encourage anyone who is struggling to reach out, whether that’s to a friend or family, or a support service like Cruse.
Aidan Jones, chief executive of relationships charity Relate, said: “The impact of loneliness at any age can be emotionally debilitating and physically harmful. In later life, when some people already find themselves with reduced social networks and increased health issues, it can be very difficult to deal with.
“Often, even when people are in relationships, they can still feel lonely. Understanding the root psychological causes for loneliness and creating targeted ways to help individuals in need can make all the difference to quality of life.
“Reaching out and ensuring someone feels heard and understood is an important first step. Relate offers relationship support services across England and Wales to people of all ages from all walks of life.”
Baroness Diana Barran MBE, Minister for Civil Society said: “Since becoming Minister for Loneliness, I have become ever more struck by the seriousness of loneliness and the impact it has on people's lives. It can affect our health, wellbeing, productivity, and self-esteem.
“This is the first policy report on the psychology of loneliness in the UK. I hope that the way it crystallises what many people are doing instinctively can be used to spread these approaches, so everyone can connect in order to live full and satisfying lives.”
To find a counsellor or psychotherapist who can help with loneliness visit our Therapist Directory.