Adult Carers

I Feel Lonely

Loneliness is not about how many friends we have. Nor is it about how much time we spend by ourselves. Loneliness is not something that happens to people when they reach a certain age. Both older and younger people can feel lonely.

Loneliness is the feeling we experience when there is a mismatch between the meaningful social connections we want and those we have. Loneliness can affect anyone.

What is Loneliness?

Research carried out in 2022 by the Mental Health Foundation in Scotland found that:

  • A quarter of adults in Scotland (25%) felt lonely some or all of the time over the previous month
  • Four in ten adults in Scotland (38%) say they sometimes or often feel lonely in a group of people they know.
  • More than half of adults in Scotland (51%) hide their feelings of loneliness from other people
  • Almost one-third of adults in Scotland (31%) said feelings of loneliness have had a negative impact on their mental health
  • One in three adults in Scotland (29%) said feelings of loneliness made them feel worried or anxious
  • One in seven adults in Scotland (14%) said feelings of loneliness have led to suicidal thoughts and feelings.

Another UK study carried out in 2018 found that young people aged 16-24 were more likely than any other age group to feel lonely.

Isolation and loneliness are particularly common experiences among carers.  Information published by Carers UK in 2021 indicates that carers are seven times more likely than the general population to say they are always or often lonely.

Just as anyone can experience loneliness, so too, loneliness affects everyone differently. It can have an impact, not only on our mental health (resulting in increased feelings of anxiety and depression), but it can also affect our physical health. Age Scotland says that loneliness is as dangerous to a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and it doubles the risk of dementia.

The British Red Cross describes some of the symptoms of loneliness as feeling:

  • A loss of confidence
  • Tired
  • Isolated and alone
  • Trapped
  • Without purpose
  • Frustrated
  • In the most extreme cases, loneliness can lead to thoughts of suicide and self-harm.

Action you can take right now

The Campaign to End Loneliness highlights that there is no one way to effectively deal with loneliness, but there are lots of things that you can do that will help. These involve:

Connecting with others

  • Catch up with old friends: Pick up the phone or send them a message.
  • Invest time in new connections: Joining local groups or classes (these could be online) based on your interests is a good way of making new connections. Volunteering is another way.
  • Little things can make a big difference: Say hello to a neighbour, your local shop keeper, or someone at the bus stop. Brief exchanges with other people can have a positive impact on you and them.
  • Connect online: If you’re not confident in your digital skills, you could look for a free course in your local library or community centre.

Consider support and services

  • Talk to someone about how you feel: You can access talking therapies through your GP, community support organisations or privately.

If you prefer to manage alone

  • Plan your week to do something you enjoy.
  • Spend time outdoors – time outdoors can boost your mood and help you feel better.
  • Focus on the good things – loneliness can sometimes put us into a negative frame of mind. Make a list of the good things in your life or look at photos of happy times to help yourself think more positively.
  • Look after yourself Make sure you’re eating well, getting some form of exercise and sleeping well.

More Information







Where to get more help

If you feel you have no one to talk to, try a free helpline:

  • Samaritans 116 123 (24-hour free helpline) and email (response time, 24 hours)
  • Breathing Space 0800 83 85 87 (6pm to 2am on weekdays, Monday – Thursday, and 24 hours at weekends, 6pm Friday – 6am Monday).


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