Research workshop on Social Isolation and Loneliness

Research workshop on Social Isolation and Loneliness

Social isolation and loneliness are prevalent within our society and the impact of the conditions on both individuals and the wider communities are becoming increasingly understood. However, social isolation and loneliness are most commonly discussed in relation to older people, but the conditions can be experienced by people at any life-stage. People who suffer from social isolation or loneliness will:

  1. Make more frequent use of public services
  2. Have an increased likelihood of developing certain health condition
  3. Have an increased likelihood of mortality

As a follow-up to our report on Social Isolation and Loneliness, Digital Catapult’s IoTUK programme and Future Cities Catapult are ran a half day workshop on 19th March to bring together stakeholders in this area.

The workshop participants came from the third sector, technology companies, academic research projects and the catapult network with guest speakers from

  • ·      The LiDA project – Loneliness in the Digital Age project. Examining issues of loneliness among people who become temporarily separated or isolated.

    ·      Peanut – Meet as Mamas, Connect as Women on the Peanut app

    ·      R-Outcomes – Improving health outcomes, experience and confidence using short generic patient-reported measures

    ·      Wavelength – A UK-wide charity working to overcome loneliness and isolation through media technology.

    ·      BuddyHub – Social enterprise startup transforming loneliness and isolation into happiness and laughter

Our earlier report already covered the impact of social isolation and loneliness on the elderly so at this workshop we focused on 3 younger groups:

  • Children and young adults in education
  • Young mothers
  • Working adults

Across these three stages of life, the group identified some common scenarios that could lead to social isolation and loneliness. While some of these scenarios already had solutions, the following were identified as potential opportunities for new solutions to be developed.

  • Moving – Whether it’s moving school, work or home, a change in environment can lead some people to feel lonely.
  • Perception of Inclusion – Most people understand that lone workers can suffer from loneliness. Working in an environment with many colleagues will give the appearance of complete social inclusion but the reality is that some employees will still feel lonely.
  • Housing – A lack of affordable housing is changing the way people live especially in large cities. At the extreme end, individuals may find themselves homeless.
  • Changes to family structure – Births, deaths, marriage and divorce can have a huge impact on family life. While there may be many resources aimed at women, there is less help available to men and some may be less willing to access help for cultural reasons.
  • Travel – The ability to have social interactions may be limited if individuals do not have access to reliable and affordable transport.
  • Time pressure – Whether it’s long working hours or caring for a family member, a lack of free time will impact an individual’s ability to socialise.

Early detection and classification of loneliness was also identified as a challenge.

We would love to hear from organisations that have already developed solutions for these scenarios especially if they involve the Internet of Things. Get in touch.

Idris Jahn
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