In late 2014, The Forum – a charity supporting migrant and refugee communities and individuals in their integration into British society –  published some new research that explored the experiences of loneliness through the eyes of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers living in London. Interviews were conducted with a wide range of people – from those who were receiving mentoring through The Forum’s New Beginnings Mentoring Project to volunteers, doctors and psychologists.

The researchers found that although there were a number of reasons for people moving to the UK, 58% of migrants and refugees taking part in the research described loneliness and isolation as their biggest challenge living in London. A number of inter-connected challenges were also identified, which could compound feelings of loneliness and isolation such as:

  • Loss of family and friends
  • Lack of social networks
  • Language barriers
  • Lack of access to services and resources
  •  Loss of status
  • Loss of identity
  • Loss of job or career
  • Cultural differences
  • Discrimination and stigma connected to being a foreigner
  • Isolating impact of government policies

These barriers are particularly apparent when there is no-one for a person to turn to, often having left friends, family or support networks in their country of origin. As one of the researchers involved in the project later explained in a blog:

“These challenges are inter-related and overlapping, trapping those who face them into a vicious circle and leading them into further isolation and loneliness and increasingly damaging their health. Feeling lonely is associated with increased mortality and reduced quality of life.”

What can be done to address loneliness and isolation facing refugees and migrants?

The Forum therefore aims to support people to meet others and to build up these support networks through new relationships, and volunteering and educational activities. There are a number of recommendations presented in the report: better housing for migrants and refugees; better welfare support and cash benefits to travel around the city; the ability to undertake employment; and adequate advice and information.

In particular, improving access to language and further education would help migrants and refugees to build social relationships. Supporting people to learn the English language would reduce language barriers and help people to develop their social networks and integrate with others.

Want to learn more?

If you’d like to read more about the project, click here for the full report.

If you would be interested in receiving the latest research into loneliness and the ways in which we can help to tackle the issue, take a look at our quarterly Research Bulletin. This regular publication is designed to make research more useful to those of us living off/working away from the university campus. You can receive these Bulletins and other relevant information direct to your inbox by becoming a supporter of the Campaign.