UCL Grand Challenges


Who is lonely where? Co-producing a systematic review on place-based factors and loneliness

Conducting a systematic review to understand how place-based factors contribute to loneliness in both urban and rural areas in the UK.

Person standing at a window with back turned

1 September 2021


Grant: Grand Challenges Special Initiatives - Place
Year awarded: 2021-22
Amount awarded: £8,600


  • Prof Helene Joffe, Psychology & Languange Sciences, Brain Sciences
  • Dr Gemma Moore, Institute of Environmental Design and Engineering, Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment

Loneliness is currently considered a major public health challenge globally. There is increasing understanding that loneliness is not just a problem at the individual, personal level. Experiences of loneliness are inextricably intertwined with place. The design and management of the  built environment to promote wellbeing have now become a key policy priority in the UK and other countries. This is especially pertinent now as Covid-19 has exacerbated loneliness and continues to shape the way we connect to places and people.

However, due to inconsistent and siloed research, it is not possible to draw clear conclusions for how place-based characteristics influence loneliness. For example, whilst some studies find that living in a densely populated neighbourhood is associated with reduced loneliness others discover the opposite. Cross-sectional data also report similar loneliness scores for urban and rural areas even though other research finds either urban or rural contexts to be associated with greater loneliness.

This project will therefore seek to co-produce a systematic review to deliver a meticulous summary of all the available primary research in response to how place-based factors contribute to loneliness. The novelty of this project relates to transdisciplinary method in bringing together two  disciplines (geography/built environment and health psychology) and practitioners from the Loneliness and Social Isolation Network to conduct the systematic review, answering the questions: what is the association between place-based factors and loneliness? Why do people in rural and urban areas feel lonely?

Impacts and Outputs

  • Awaiting impacts and outputs.

Image credit: Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash