As January drew to a close, the Campaign to End Loneliness set off for Bristol for our first Research Hub meeting of 2014. Led by Vanessa Burholt, from Swansea University, the meeting brought together nearly 20 academics and researchers from the charity sector to talk about current research into loneliness and isolation.

As some of you will already know, the 50+ members of our Research Hub are all interested in, and committed to, undertaking research that can improve our understanding of the issue of loneliness, the impact it has and what can be done about it. Their particular interests vary: at the most recent meeting we asked everyone there to tell us what they were working on, or wanted to know more about. Topics included:

  • How physical activity can reduce loneliness in older age
  • The difference between rural and urban loneliness
  • Links between loneliness and hospital admissions
  • Demonstrating the impact of health on loneliness, and loneliness on health
  • Working out how to determine the financial costs of loneliness
  • Tracing how different circumstances when we’re young could influence our risk of loneliness in later life

The Research Hub is also working to identify the main gaps in our knowledge around loneliness. And in the past three years we’ve started to think about what the priorities for new research should be. For example it is very clear that simply do not have enough robust evidence about what really works to tackle loneliness. So in our meeting last week, we started to agree a plan of action for 2014:

Keep sharing the latest research and evidence

Our quarterly Research Bulletin – shared exclusively with supporters of the Campaign – is the most regular way that we keep organisations up to date with the latest research and evidence. We’ll be continuing this Bulletin, but are going to work harder to make it easy to read and to pull out the practical implications of research. To receive these, simply make sure you have signed-up to the Campaign.

Develop new research together

We are also making plans for the Research Hub members to work together the fill some of the key gaps in the evidence base. We’re particularly keen that service providers and charities that are interested in learning more can get involved in this process – as for research to really be useful it needs to be shaped by those who can really apply it on the frontline. If you would be interested in learning more about this, please email me.

Host more joint events for supporters

Finally, we will continue to invite Research Hub members speak directly to supporters during our ‘Understanding Loneliness’ workshop series. In December, Professor Christina Victor presented on her on-going research that is identifying who is lonely, why they are lonely and how loneliness changes as we age. You can watch Christina’s presentation here. This month, Dr Tracy Collins from Salford University will be speaking at our ‘Challenge of Christmas’ event.

We’ll be holding more of these events through the year, but before we decide on the subjects these workshops will cover, we need to hear from you. What would you like to see our next workshop focus on? What would help you to better understand the issue of loneliness, and take steps to tackle it? Take this short two-minute survey and let us know.