Loneliness and social isolation
Loneliness and social isolation are serious problems in the borough for people of all ages and are harmful to health. They can lead to poorer physical and mental health and increase chances of developing dementia, depression and early death.
Most people like to make friends and socialise with other people but it's not always easy; especially if you're unable to get out much. The loneliness and isolation that results from lack of social contact can harm your health but there are things you can do to meet people and to make new friends.
Effects of loneliness
Feeling lonely can have a negative impact on your physical and mental health, especially if these feelings have lasted a long time.
Some research suggests that loneliness is associated with an increased risk of certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems and increased stress.
Older people can be at high risk of feeling lonely and isolated because of reduced mobility, bereavement or not having family close by.
Young people can also report feelings of loneliness and isolation, for instance when they move away from family to go to college or if they are finding it difficult to make new friends.
Covid-19 and isolation
The coronavirus pandemic has significantly increased the number of people experiencing isolation due to household lockdowns and social distancing. Many organisations have risen to the challenge by mobilising volunteers to provide much-needed social contacts as well as other essentials.
You can find further information on how to access local support and services on our coronavirus page.
The important thing to recognise is that it is perfectly okay to speak about being lonely. There are opportunities to get some support and to build new relationships.
There are many local services and community organisations in the borough that provide support for loneliness and social isolation, offering befriending and support that can help people to feel connected and valued.
Neighbours in Poplar
Neighbours in Poplar provides practical support and care for vulnerable people who are living at home, regardless of their faith, age, race, gender, culture, or disability. They also provide disadvantaged children with breaks from their normal environment during the summer holidays.
Contact: email email@example.com, telephone 020 7987 0257.
Tower Hamlets Friends and Neighbours
Tower Hamlets Friends and Neighbours provides a befriending service – regular home visits and phone contact to provide practical and emotional support to people experiencing social isolation and loneliness.
Contact: email firstname.lastname@example.org, telephone 020 8983 7979.
East London Cares
East London Cares in Bethnal Green and Mile End area, offer befriending and support that can help people to feel connected and valued.
Contact: email@example.com, telephone: 020 7118 4949.
Social prescribers within Tower Hamlets are located at GP practices. They offer one-to-one support to patients with their non-medical issues and help them to access appropriate support within the local community, for example around volunteering, employment, benefits, housing, debt, parenting and physical activity.
Local groups and services
For information on other local groups and services visit the Idea Store Directory
Next steps for tackling loneliness
In November 2017, Tower Hamlets Council brought together stakeholders from the community to feedback on two projects commissioned to understand and tackle loneliness. It was also an opportunity to discuss the next steps. More information on the projects can be found in the reports linked below including a locally produced video on loneliness.
- The Community Perspective Loneliness Project
- The Action on Loneliness in Care Homes Project
- Exploring loneliness [YouTube video]
- Notes from stakeholder engagement event, November 2017
If you have any queries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Loneliness task force
The council has established a loneliness task force to identify how the needs of people who experience loneliness can be better met.
This could be through a befriending service, joining a new activity or a local community hub. Across Tower Hamlets, we want to encourage a sense of neighbourliness and mutual aid that motivates people to interact more sociably in their streets and local communities.
Can you help?
If you feel inspired to do something, you can apply for a small grant up to £5000 to help support your local community.
See what local organisations have been able to do with the small grants:
- The Orpheus Project - a free creative development programme for young men* aged 18-25 living in East London.
- Neighbours in Poplar
More information on loneliness and social isolation can be found on these websites:
- NHS Choices
- Campaign to End Loneliness
- The Jo Cox Foundation
- The Connection Coalition, an alliance of charitable organisations formed by the Jo Cox Foundation that are working together to reduce the impact of isolation especially during the Covid-19 epidemic. The coalition also aims to build stronger relationships and more connected communities long term.
The Community Directory has information about organisations in the borough that provide social activities.
There are a number of befriending services available in Tower Hamlets, so you don’t have to feel isolated or lonely.
Some of these offer telephone befriending where trained service users, carers and volunteers offer a friendly voice at the end of the phone to help increase wellbeing and reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.
You can choose:
- how often you would like to be called
- whether you have a preferred gender of the caller
- what your interests are
to help match them with the best-suited befriender.
The East London Foundation Trust (ELFT) provides such a service. You can apply online. by visiting the website.
A number of befriending services are also listed in the Community Directory.