Loneliness and social isolation

Feeling connected

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.

Mental health

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

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

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.

Finding connections

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.

LinkAge Plus

LinkAge Plus (over 50s) is a network of community groups which offer outreach and activities for people over 50.
Contact: info@ageukeastlondon.org.uk, telephone: 020 8981 7124.

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 nip65@msn.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 admin@thfn.org.uk, 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: sasha.khan@eastlondoncares.org.uk, telephone: 020 7118 4949.

Social prescribers

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.  

If you have any queries, please contact keith.williams@towerhamlets.gov.uk

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:

Let's talk loneliness

In October 2018, the government launched its Loneliness Strategy and from this, the #LetsTalkLoneliness campaign was launched. A new website now brings together organisations, resources and inspirational stories to get more people talking about loneliness.

Further information

More information on loneliness and social isolation can be found on these websites:

Social activities

The Community Directory has information about organisations in the borough that provide social activities. 

Befriending services

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.