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Loneliness and Social Isolation in Mental Health research network

The Loneliness and Social Isolation in Mental Health is a new research network that will bring together many different relative perspectives on this topic. It is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a body that brings together UK Research Councils in different fields. The network was launched in December 2018, and is one of eight UKRI-funded researcher networks. It brings together researchers, health practitioners, charities, people with lived experience of mental ill health, and other organisations to address important mental health research questions. Researchers include clinical researchers, psychologists, social scientists, neuroscientists and specialists in the arts and in digital innovations.

The Network is intended to greatly accelerate the pace of research on loneliness and social isolation in mental health. Topics we are interested in include:

- how mental health and social connections relate to each other

- whether tackling loneliness is a potential way of improving the mental health of our population

- how to reduce loneliness among people living with mental health problems.

We have already got together a network of researchers and practitioners from different backgrounds (including charities working in this field), and people representing those with lived experience of loneliness and social isolation. We will be growing this network over the coming months.

We have funding currently up to Summer 2022. In this time, we will be:

- Mapping the evidence that is already available and the research in progress in this area

- Identifying research priorities, including those of people with relevant lived experience

- Providing funding for small projects

- Bringing together collaborative groups to begin developing larger projects

- Aiming to support development of the research workforce in this area, especially researchers who are early in their careers and researchers with relevant lived experience.

Over the course of three and a half years we will be scoping current evidence and on-going work, identifying research priorities, and providing seed-funding for small projects. Our aim to is to better understand the direction and nature of the links between loneliness and social isolation and mental health problems, and to plant the seeds for work to reduce the burden of mental ill health by reducing loneliness and social isolation. 

The network is led by Professor Sonia Johnson and Dr Alexandra Pitman, both from the UCL Division of Psychiatry, as part of a team of 12 co-investigators at the University of Birmingham, LSE, the Royal College of Music, UCL, and the University of Northumbria. Dr Sarah Carr (University of Birmingham) leads on involvement of people with relevant lived experience in all aspects of the network. The network is supported by third sector and policy partners, including Wellbeing Enterprises CIC, the Campaign to End Loneliness, the Bromley By Bow Centre, Social Spider CIC, the Mental Elf, and Public Health England.

We launched our network on 3/12/18 at an event at Friends House, near Euston station in London, whilst also disseminating the results of the Community Navigator study. Here are some photographs and the presentations from the launch:

  • Professor Sonia Johnson, Professor of Social and Community Psychiatry, Division of Psychiatry, UCLWhy focus on loneliness and social isolation in mental health?

  • Professor Anne Rogers, Professor of Health Systems Implementation, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southampton.

The same evening we held a Mental Health Question Time event at UCL in collaboration with The Mental Elf, The Lancet Psychiatry, and the UCL Division of Psychiatry. A video recording of the event is available here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwT1EHGy2dM&list=PLSKM2Zm6MngJOQo_gcZHP-MEH7TCiL8jl

We are interested in hearing a wide range of views on what we should prioritise, and are surveying views at this link


Blogs and Articles


Further information:

UCL press release

RCM press release

Lancet comment piece

Twitter: @UCL_Loneliness


If you are interested in joining the network, please email Dr Mary Birken, Network Co-ordinator: m.birken@ucl.ac.uk