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1 in 5 UK students often or always feel lonely. This is greatest in those over the age of 65 and, surprisingly high in those aged 18-30. It’s important to dispel the stigma around loneliness. This short blog will outline what loneliness is, how to recognise and how to tackle it.


Loneliness is not easy to define in a sentence. It is a subjective experience of aloneness. One might feel lonely while surrounded by people, friends or even family. One might feel lonely - isolated from people, physically or emotionally.

Social isolation on the other hand, is a lack of social contact or infrequent interaction. Although independent factors, it is widely recognised that they are intertwined and often form part of the same conversation.The key feature of both is that the actual interaction is less than that the individual desires.

Despite loneliness often being described as an emotion, it can manifest itself as physical symptoms:

  • Insomnia or hypersomnia

  • Restlessness

  • Myalgia or malaise

  • Fatigue

  • Experiences of low mood, anxiety or fearfulness.

Some contributing factors to loneliness include:

  • Increased distance to existing social networks.

  • Poor work-life balance including long hours, shift work, or unsociable hours.

  • Lack of peers: people of different cultures, generational interests, hobbies.

  • Communication, different languages, modes of communication (written or spoken)

  • Existing mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, personality disorders.

  • Chronic illness

Why should I care about loneliness?

Loneliness has been proven to contribute to and increase the risk of developing:

  • Cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks and hypertension

  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Anxiety, depression, intentional ending of life.

  • Poor mental wellbeing is secondary to increased physical stress responses.

  • Substance and alcohol misuse.

Where to get support:

  1. NMRA: We are ready to support you! Free confidential peer support from people who understand and have been through what you have been through. We can signpost you to services and support you in your academic and professional journey.


  1. Samaritans: here to listen, free 24/7 phone service. Contactable through 116 123.

  2. University and work: dedicated support networks exist within higher education, academia and healthcare. Reach out to the safeguarding lead/students’ union who can signpost you to local services.

Further reading:

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