Loneliness during coronavirus

Page last reviewed: 15 December 2021

The Mental Health Foundation is part of the national mental health response during the coronavirus outbreak. Government advice designed to keep us safe is under constant review and will be different depending on where you live: more details and up to date information here.

Millions of us have felt lonely during the coronavirus pandemic. As we work together to stay safe and save lives, we may find ourselves spending less time with family, friends or familiar faces – especially if we’re shielding or self-isolating.

What to do if you are feeling lonely 

  • Try calling a friend, family member, health professional or counsellor to talk about your feelings.  
  • You could also contact Samaritans on freephone 116 123 or by emailing [email protected] if you need someone to talk to. 
  • Join an online group or class that focuses on something you enjoy. It could be an exercise class, book club, art class etc.  
  • Try getting out into nature if you can do so safely. Connecting with the outside world can boost your mental health and wellbeing.

This is a challenging and sometimes lonely time, but it will pass. There will be lots of hugs, shared pots of tea, parties and celebrations in the future. For now, let’s be as kind as possible to ourselves and others. 

Helping others who might be experiencing loneliness 

Check in on people you know who live alone or might not have many relatives or close connections to check in on them. A message or a phone call could make a big difference to someone who hasn’t heard from anyone in a while. 

If it’s a neighbour, you could even share something you’ve baked with them - at a safe distance! If you know someone who struggles with technology, now could be a good time to talk them through setting up something like Skype or Zoom at home. This could make a huge difference to their social interactions in future. Age UK has a handy guide to making video calls with different apps.

The acts of kindness and community we saw at the start of the pandemic can still help us today. We’ve come up with some more ideas for random acts of kindness

How lonely are UK adults feeling?

According to a survey* of UK adults which took place nine months into COVID-19 restrictions (late November 2020) one in four (24%) adults in the UK said they had feelings of loneliness in the previous two weeks. 

Young people, people who are unemployed, full-time students and single parents are all more likely to be lonely, according to each wave of the survey which has tracked the mental health of the nation since March 2020. 

On a more positive note, the results shows that three in four of us have not been experiencing loneliness.* This shows that many of us are resilient and able to adapt our ways of keeping in contact with people. Doing good is good for our mental health, so now could a great opportunity to help someone else who might be feeling lonely.  

How does loneliness affect our mental health?  

Many of us feel lonely from time to time and these short-term feelings shouldn’t harm our mental health. However, the longer the pandemic goes on for, the more these feelings become deep-rooted.  

Long-term loneliness brings an increased risk of certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and increased stress. And having a mental health problem can make you more likely to feel lonely: for example, stigma about your condition may make it hard to open up to others about it, or social anxiety may make it difficult to reach out to others.

What can we do to prevent loneliness? 

There is currently a range of restrictions across the UK.

That means we need to find new ways to connect with people and stay in touch. Now, more than ever, is the time to keep up those strong social networks that act like a buffer against poor mental health.  

We have had to rely on technology a lot more for communication since the start of the pandemic. While it has been a valuable tool, many might feel exhausted by online quizzes or experience ‘Zoom fatigue’. If you are feeling burnt out from the ways you connect with people, try out some new ways. For example:

  • switch back to voice calls if you use video calls for work
  • send a text or a voice-note to someone if a call seems like too much 
  • join an online book club or an online language exchange if you miss your old hobbies and social outlets
  • watch sports in an online video room with friends – some broadcasters have this option  
  • regular phone calls, messages or even writing letters are lovely ways to show someone that you’re thinking of them.  

With a little research, you might find something that’s right for you. Our guide to nurturing relationships during coronavirus has lots of different ideas for keeping in touch.  

You are not alone

Remember, we all feel lonely at times. All of us, at some point or other during this coronavirus pandemic, will feel cut off from our loved ones. However, some of us will have greater access to technology than others or more social connections. 

By caring for each other, checking in on people who are more isolated, or even volunteering for a helpline, we can help prevent a loneliness epidemic.  

For more ways of looking after your mental health during the pandemic, check out our coronavirus advice hub

* All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 4,436 UK adults 18+. Fieldwork was undertaken between 26th and the 30th November 2020.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+). 

The Mental Health Foundation is committed to bringing readers reliable and relevant information. All of our pages are written and regularly reviewed by our mental health experts, in line with official advice on the coronavirus outbreak.

We need your support to keep providing vital information during this time.

Please consider making a donation today

If you want to develop a personalised plan for supporting your mental health you can visit the Every Mind Matters site, developed in collaboration with the Mental Health Foundation.

If you need to talk confidentially you can call Samaritans on 116 123 at any time. We also have a resource on how to get help for your mental health.