Here is a summary of the tweetchat held on 26th February


Date: 26th February 12.30 - 13.30

Title: Researching Eating Disorders and Loneliness: what questions do we need to ask?

This tweetchat was hosted by: Lorna Collins and Francesca Solmi

Lorna Collins spent 20 years as a ‘revolving door’ eating disorder patient, but she then recovered. Now she is a writer, artist, researcher, campaigner.

Francesca Solmi is an epidemiologist who studies risk factors and outcomes of eating disorders and disordered eating in the general population.

Here’s the questions we asked over the hour tweetchat to generate discussions:

1. If you have an eating disorder, why might you be lonely?

2. Can loneliness increase the risk of developing eating disorders?

3. What areas are people researching now, or should be researched in relation to loneliness, social isolation and eating disorders?

4. How can the network support the progression of research in this area, and ensure its collaborative?

What do we know about the relationship between loneliness and eating disorders?

There is increasing research trying to understand whether, why, and how experiences of loneliness and social isolation can increase a person’s risk to develop mental health problems, such as depression, and whether mental health problems can lead to social isolation and loneliness. 

A few studies suggest that loneliness and social isolation can be common experiences among people with eating disorders, both before and after their onset. For instance, people with anorexia nervosa can experience loss of friendships or reduced social interaction, as they become more unwell.  Some research also suggests that people who develop eating disorders already had fewer friendships in childhood compared to their peers. 

There is still relatively little research on this association, so we do not know what could be done to address it, and whether doing so could lead to clinical improvements or help prevention. It is therefore important to identify what are important research questions in this area that could lead to better outcomes for people with eating disorders. 

Do you have lived experience of an eating disorder? Have you experienced loneliness or social isolation in correspondence with your eating disorder? Are you researching these themes? Do you think this research should be done? Please join our discussion. 


Sharpe H, Schober I, Treasure J, Schmidt U (2014). The role of high-quality friendships in female adolescents’ eating pathology and body dissatisfaction. Eating and Weight Disorders

Westwood H, Lawrence V, Fleming C, Tchanturia K (2016). Exploration of friendship experiences, before and after illness onset in females with anorexia nervosa: A qualitative study. PLoS ONE

Past chats

Digital technology and loneliness or social isolation in mental health

Tuesday 10th December 12-1pm

Here is a transcript of this tweetchat:


The aim of this tweetchat was to generate discussion on digital technology in relation to loneliness or social isolation in mental health and was co-hosted by Professor John Vines, Northumbria University. His research focuses on the study of how people experience, appropriate and use digital technologies in their everyday lives.

Here are the four question discussed during the hour:

1. What do you think the role of digital technology is in causing or mitigating against loneliness?

2.  Are there particular types of technologies that might be more useful or more problematic in terms of preventing loneliness?

3. Are there particular points in a person’s life where technology might be especially useful in combatting loneliness?

4. What do you feel we need to understand more of, and do more research into, about the impact of digital technology on loneliness?

How does the built environment impact on loneliness in people with mental health problems

We held our first Tweetchat on Wednesday 23rd October 2019, 12-1pm. Sixteen people took part in the tweetchat and we have turned the tweetchat into two Twitter moments, that bring all the threads of discussions together. 

The aim of this tweetchat was to generate discussion on how the built environment impacts on feelings of loneliness amongst people with mental health problems, to explore future research in this area. During the tweetchat we asked the following questions:

  1. Can you think of examples of how the built environment can cause loneliness?
  2. What aspects of the built environment would you focus on to prevent loneliness?
  3. What aspect do you think we should understand more about as priority, through research?
  4. How can the network support this research to happen?

What do we mean by the built environment?

The Built Environment as opposed to the natural environment is the man made physical environment, comprising buildings (houses, facilities for education, leisure, healthcare, recreation, etc.), infrastructure (such as roads, ports, railways, airports, etc.) and all the man-made spaces in between and around these buildings and infrastructure (squares, parks, etc.).

What do we know about its relationship with loneliness and mental health?

Loneliness has been described as a subjective negative feeling that occurs when there is a mismatch between the number and Quality of social relationships we have, and the relationships we want.  Therefore someone may feel lonely when amongst people or when they are alone. People with mental health problems are more likely to feel lonely than their peers without a mental health problem. Loneliness  can  also get in the way of recovery from a mental health problem.

As we know our social and physical environment influences our health and well-being so it’s important we understand the role the built environment can play in contributing to loneliness, reducing or preventing it.

A recent review of studies found that living in high-rise residential buildings impacts social connections and mental health in different ways depending on which floor of the build you live on (Barros et al., 2019). Another research study identified that feelings of loneliness are associated with negatively biased perceptions of neighbourhood characteristics (Matthews et al., 2019). These are only few examples where the environment could affect loneliness. The area is not as advanced research-wise but it is very important in real life. Therefore, it is crucial that we start thinking about what exactly we should investigate in relation to loneliness and the built environment.


Barros, P., Ng Fat, L., Garcia, L., Slovic, A.D, , Thomopoulos, N., De Sa, T.H., Mora, P. & Mindell, J. (2019) Social consequences and mental health outcomes of living in high-rise residential buildings and the influence of planning, urban design and architectural decisions: A systematic review Cities 93 263-272.

Matthews, T., Odgers, C.L., Danese, A., Fisher, H.L., Newbury, J.B., Caspi, A., Moffitt, T.E. & Arseneault (2019) Loneliness and Neighborhood Characteristics: A Multi-Informant, Nationally Representative Study of Young Adults  Psychology Science 30 5) 765-775.