The experiences of loneliness in individuals with psychological well being difficulties


Like meals and water, social interplay is a fundamental human want (Tomova et al., 2020). Nevertheless, in England, roughly 3 million individuals typically or at all times really feel alone (Division for Digital, Tradition, Media, and Sport, 2021).

Loneliness emerges within the absence of good-quality, significant relationships (Peplau, 1982); putting people at elevated threat of social isolation and negatively impacting their bodily and psychological well being. Growing the danger of adverse outcomes, resembling untimely mortality (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2015), hypertension (Hawkley et al., 2010), coronary coronary heart illness (Valtorta et al., 2016), despair, self-harm, and anxiousness (Mann et al., 2022).

The event of loneliness-reducing methods requires analysis to discover the loneliness-mental well being dynamics (Mann et al., 2022). Nevertheless, analysis tends to give attention to disorder-specific hyperlinks and never on how loneliness is skilled by people with widespread psychological well being difficulties.

The current examine, co-designed with consultants by expertise, goals to discover how adults experiencing psychological well being issues conceptualised, skilled, and addressed their emotions of loneliness through the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors current their generic analysis findings on this paper, while findings particularly related to the pandemic have been written up individually (Gillard et al., 2021; Vera San Juan et al., 2021; Shah et al., 2022).

Research on loneliness focuses mostly on disorder-specific experiences.

Analysis on loneliness focuses totally on disorder-specific experiences.



Contributors have been recruited from group organisations, charities, and social media platforms. Eligible people have been people over 18 years previous who self-reported experiencing psychological well being difficulties and loneliness.  Objective sampling aimed to make sure range by together with people of minority teams, customers of assorted psychological well being companies, these with a number of diagnoses, and concrete/rural populations.

Design and measures

This qualitative examine concerned research-trained people with lived expertise who embedded their experience at each stage of the analysis course of, such because the design of interview guides, conducting interviews, analysing knowledge and report writing. Knowledge was gathered with semi-structured interviews. As a result of emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, two interviews have been performed face-to-face, eight over the cellphone, and the remaining 49 on-line.


The information was thematically analysed (Braun and Clarke, 2019) utilizing Template Evaluation (King and Brooks, 2017). Transcripts have been carefully examined and in contrast amongst researchers and lived expertise researchers to make sure the identification of related themes. Out of the fifty-nine interview transcripts, solely three preliminary and 5 confirmatory transcripts have been analysed to develop the examine’s coding template.


The authors interviewed and described the experiences of 59 grownup contributors dwelling within the UK, who had self-reported experiencing psychological well being issues. These included temper issues (44%), persona issues (12%), bipolar dysfunction (13.5%), and schizophrenia (12%), in addition to dependancy, obsessive-compulsive dysfunction, and suicidal ideas (10%) and different non-specified diagnoses (18.5%). Total, the pattern was predominantly white British heterosexual females, aged 25-54 and dwelling in city areas.

In whole, the examine discovered 4 over-arching themes that seize how people with psychological well being issues expertise loneliness emotionally and bodily. Total, contributors revealed that their psychological well being difficulties led them to really feel lonely, while feeling lonely worsened their psychological well being. Nevertheless, for some contributors, this relationship was one-way, while, for others, it was dynamic in nature.

1. What the phrase “lonely” meant to contributors

Contributors shared that loneliness is skilled emotionally with emotions of “tearfulness” or “unhappiness”, and bodily with sensations resembling “stabbing within the coronary heart”.  Loneliness experiences assorted in accordance with the time spent interacting with others, and the standard of social interactions, i.e., in the event that they felt understood, beloved, and supported and a way of belongingness.

2. Connections between loneliness and psychological well being

Contributors described how their loneliness and psychological well being have been carefully intertwined: “it’s a little bit of a cycle. . . your psychological well being means you may’t connect with individuals, then not with the ability to join makes your psychological well being worse and you then’re simply biking round.”

Contributors additionally revealed how having a long-term psychological well being situation contributed to the deterioration of their social relations. Furthermore, individuals mirrored that poverty, stigma, and condition-specific signs improve self-isolation, social exclusion, and due to this fact, loneliness: “Due to my situation [‘borderline personality disorder’], I fear about having relationships with individuals and that retains me remoted and retains me lonely.” Equally, adverse ideas and low temper remoted contributors, exacerbating their present psychological well being difficulties: “Loneliness can set off despair in me, it may take me to a darkish place”.

3. Components contributing to ongoing loneliness

Components contributing to feeling lonely included these regarding self, resembling insecurity and introversion, and trauma-induced responses, as evidenced by contributors: “Generally I really feel snug…  to affix within the dialog however different occasions I really feel like …  they don’t need me there.

Equally, bodily disabilities and age have been recognized as boundaries to social interactions. Nevertheless, exterior elements, resembling romantic, emotional, or bodily losses, spending extreme time alone, or occasions of transition, have been additionally recognized as boundaries: “I’ve confronted grieving for somebody that died near me. I despaired and simply be at house alone and simply not capable of operate. . .”

4. Methods to scale back loneliness

Contributors have been conscious of their emotions of loneliness and the way such experiences negatively affected them. Making use of inside and exterior approaches to scale back their loneliness proved useful, relying on the character and context of their experiences. Internally, contributors aimed to enhance their temper and cut back anxiousness. Externally, contributors shared how social contact is important to decreasing emotions of loneliness and the way this could possibly be achieved by way of volunteering, or community-based initiatives, that fostered a way of group belonging.

Experiences of loneliness reflect the presence and quality of their everyday social interactions and how individuals consider themselves in relation to others.

Experiences of loneliness mirror the presence and high quality of their on a regular basis social interactions and the way people contemplate themselves in relation to others.


The authors concluded that loneliness emerges within the absence of high quality and significant social interactions and the shortage of belonging to a bunch or group. Common drivers resembling transitions have been recognized, along with direct hyperlinks between experiencing psychological well being difficulties and feeling lonely. Together with psychological well being signs, and the necessity to withdraw as symptom-related coping mechanisms and stigma. Contemplating such contributors to loneliness, the authors proposed loneliness-reducing methods.

To tackle loneliness we need a psychologically informed holistic approach, rooted in co-production, and embedded within the community.

To sort out loneliness we want a psychologically knowledgeable holistic method, rooted in co-production, and embedded inside the group.

Strengths and limitations

The primary power of the examine is the embedded lived expertise at each stage of the analysis course of, offering wealthy and dependable accounts of loneliness. The evaluation was rigorously carried out by lived skilled researchers and skilled qualitative researchers in an iterative course of. Nevertheless, solely eight broad-brush transcript analyses guided the preliminary coding template. Subsequently, it’s not attainable to find out if new themes or insights weren’t captured.

The authors additionally ensured a comparatively numerous pattern of individuals with varied psychological well being difficulties, backgrounds, service experiences, and areas. Nevertheless, such heterogeneity may also be seen as a limitation, as teams weren’t categorically outlined to permit between-group comparisons. For instance, out of the 44% of contributors experiencing temper issues, it has not been specified what number of skilled despair in comparison with different diagnoses. Though the outcomes provide some conclusions about individuals with psychological well being issues, these can’t be linked to specific diagnoses or medical sub-populations. Lastly, extra give attention to male contributors might have been sought, contemplating it’s a susceptible and extremely under-researched group. Likewise, from a social perspective, it will have been useful to look at if group memberships, resembling contributors belonging to the LGBTQ+ group (15.3%) skilled loneliness otherwise from their heterosexual counterparts (72.9%).

Different limitations of the examine embrace, as acknowledged by the authors, failing to measure contributors’ psychological well being difficulties at baseline. There isn’t any means to attract on the proof of whether or not the severity of psychological well being difficulties impacts how a person experiences loneliness. Furthermore, most contributors have been specialist psychological well being service customers, and 13 had not used any psychological well being companies. Therefore, it’s obscure if loneliness varies amongst people receiving some form of intervention or remedy in contrast to those who don’t obtain any psychological well being help.

Concluding, the authors reported that contributors have been inspired to share basic experiences of loneliness and reported COVID-19-related findings elsewhere. Nevertheless, it can’t be denied that knowledge assortment was largely performed through the pandemic, which might inevitably influence contributors’ psychological well being states and experiences of loneliness.

Reporting covid-19 related data separately, does not withdraw participants from their existing pandemic context

Reporting Covid-19 associated knowledge individually doesn’t withdraw contributors from their present pandemic context.

Implications for follow

These findings can inform clinicians’ approaches to tackling loneliness when supporting people experiencing psychological well being issues. Loneliness-reducing methods want an holistic method to be efficient. These can embrace a mix of supported self-help, peer help, and psychological or social interventions. It’s necessary for clinicians to pay attention to group and help teams or organisations that may provide further help (alongside public psychological well being care) and signpost their service customers as/when appropriate.

The findings have analysis implications for each qualitative and quantitative exploration. Firstly, the examine has emphasised that creating efficient interventions requires the inclusion and experience of people with lived expertise, so there’s floor for co-production and participatory motion tasks. Moreover, it will be useful to research how the recognized contributing elements relate to loneliness by way of longitudinal research. Likewise, exploring qualitatively how marginalised populations, such because the LGBTQ+ group or disabled people, expertise loneliness might drastically information group help initiatives and tailor-made methods inside psychological well being companies.

Qualitative exploration of loneliness among marginalised groups would support the development of tailored strategies.

Qualitative exploration of loneliness amongst marginalised teams would help the event of tailor-made methods.

Assertion of pursuits



Major paper

Birken, M., Chipp, B., Shah, P., Olive, R. R, Nyikavaranda, P., Hardy, J., Chhapia, A., Barber, N., Lee, S., Pearce, E., Lloyd-Evans, B.,  Perkins, R., McDaid, D., Stefanidou, T., Shafran, R., Pitman, A., and Johnson, S. (2023). Exploring the experiences of loneliness in adults with psychological well being issues: A participatory qualitative interview examine in PLoS ONE, 18, (3).

Different references

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Dengu, D. Enhancing our understanding of the hyperlinks between loneliness and psychological well being issues. The Psychological Elf, 24 Jan 2023.

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Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T., and Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and Social Isolation as Threat Components for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Evaluation in Views on Psychological Science, 10, ( 2), 227-237.

King, N., and J. M. Brooks. 2017. Template Evaluation for Enterprise and Administration College students. London: Sage.

Mann, F., Wang, J., Pearce, E., Ma, R., Schlief, M., Lloyd-Evans, B., Ikhtabi, S., and Johnson, S. (2022). Loneliness and the onset of recent psychological well being issues within the basic inhabitants in Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology, 57, ( 11), 2161–2178.

Mansfield, R. Dementia, and loneliness: prevalence and determinants for individuals dwelling within the UK. The Psychological Elf, 29 Jan 2021.

Peplau, L. (1982). Perspective on loneliness in Loneliness: a sourcebook of present principle, analysis, and remedy. John Wiley and Sons.

Shah, P., Hardy, J., Birken, M., Foye, U., Rowan Olive, R., Nyikavaranda, P., Dare, C., Stefanidou, T., Schlief, M., Pearce, E., Lyons, N., Machin, Ok., Jeynes, T., Chipp, B., Chhapia, A., Barber, N., Gillard, S., Pitman, A., Simpson, A., Johnson, S., Lloyd-Evans, B., and the NIHR Psychological Well being Coverage Analysis Unit Covid coproduction analysis group (2022). What has modified within the experiences of individuals with psychological well being issues through the COVID-19 pandemic: a coproduced, qualitative interview examine in Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology, 57(6), 1291–1303.

Tomova, L., Wang, Ok. L., Thompson, T., Matthews, A. G.,  Takahashi, A., Tye, M. Ok., and Saxe, R. (2020). Acute social isolation evokes midbrain craving responses much like starvation in Nature Neuroscience, 23, 1597–1605.

Valtorta, N., Kanaan, M., Gilbody, S., Ronzi, S., and Hanratty, B. (2016). Loneliness and social isolation as threat elements for coronary coronary heart illness and stroke: systematic evaluate and meta-analysis of longitudinal observational research in Coronary heart, 102, 1009–1016.

Vera San Juan, N., Shah, P., Schlief, M., Appleton, R., Nyikavaranda, P., Birken, M., Foye, U., Lloyd-Evans, B., Morant, N., Needle, J. J., Simpson, A., Lyons, N., Rains, L. S., Dedat, Z., and Johnson, S. (2021). Service person experiences and views concerning elemental well being through the COVID-19 pandemic: A co-produced framework evaluation in PloS one, 16(9), e0257270.

Wang, J. Loneliness in psychosis and associated psychological and social elements. The Psychological Elf, 4 Sep 2018.

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