As the Campaign to End Loneliness enters the next phase of its journey with the Centre for Loneliness Studies at Sheffield Hallam University, we hear how the movement to tackle loneliness will continue to be championed under the expert leadership of Professor Andrea Wigfield and Associate Professor Antonia Ypsilanti.

What next for the Campaign to End Loneliness?

Set up in 2011, to tackle the growing health concerns of loneliness, the Campaign to End Loneliness has had a major positive impact. It has spearheaded and stimulated action to address loneliness, locally, nationally and internationally. Along with the Jo Cox Foundation, the Campaign inspired the British government to become the first in the world to appoint a Minister for Loneliness, and to develop a national loneliness strategy. Not only that, the Campaign has been instrumental in the development of other similar initiatives across the globe.

At the end of this month, the Campaign in its current format, being hosted by the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, is closing. However, spurred on by the fact that loneliness continues to remain an issue facing around half the country’s population, the Centre for Loneliness Studies at Sheffield Hallam University has agreed to host and support the Campaign going forward.

A new home with the Centre for Loneliness Studies

The Centre for Loneliness Studies offers an innovative, multidisciplinary approach to loneliness research, seeking to understand the wider societal explanations for, and potential solutions to, loneliness across the life-course. The Centre brings together researchers from a wide range of academic disciplines across a number of universities. It carries out internationally recognised, high quality academic research on loneliness. Although the Centre is theoretically driven, in line with the ethos of Sheffield Hallam University, it aims to produce research which can make a difference in the ‘real world’.

It aims to transform lives through its research, which is informed by, and informs, policy and practice. With this mission at its heart, it not only made perfect sense for the Centre to embrace the Campaign going forward but as Centre Director, Professor Andrea Wigfield explains “I felt that it was our duty to step in to ensure that the legacy of the Campaign is preserved and that the excellent work that has been achieved by so many over the last 13 years can be continued”.

Professor Wigfield goes on to say that “loneliness has not gone away, in fact alongside the well-known statistics that older people and young adults are at heightened risk of loneliness, recent research has suggested that people in mid-life in England are lonelier than in other European countries and lonelier than past generations of this age. This together with the health risks associated with chronic loneliness means that we have a responsibility to ensure that we continue to raise awareness of loneliness and reinvigorate our attempts to identify ways in which we can support individuals and organisations to prevent transient loneliness becoming chronic”.

Next steps and future plans

The Campaign to End Loneliness website is to be transferred over to Sheffield Hallam University at the end of this month and from Wednesday 1 May 2024, Professor Wigfield will be working closely with colleague Associate Professor Antonia Ypsilanti to ensure that the Campaign continues in its quest to tackle chronic loneliness.

Dr Ypsilanti reflects on this important development by saying “we are immensely honoured and excited to carry on the work of the Campaign to End Loneliness and widen its purpose and reach across the globe with strategic partnerships outside the UK. The internationalisation of the campaign will enable us to share good practices and advance our knowledge to colleagues and stakeholders across the world, putting the Campaign at the forefront of future research and practice on loneliness”.

Inclusivity lies at the heart of the Campaign’s strategy going forward and the two academics are keen to set up a new advisory board as soon as possible. Organisations of all sizes and from all sectors are invited to express an interest in joining the advisory board, as are individuals with lived experience of loneliness. Together we will continue to champion the Campaign’s ethos and bring about societal change to end loneliness.