There is an ever-growing body of research and evidence on the impact of loneliness that creates the foundation of our campaigning and resources. Evidence can come from a range of places, including universities, surveys, evaluations and even anecdotes – we want to hear the experience of our supporters.

Our recent three-year evaluation highlighted just how important this research has been to successfully raising the health risks of loneliness. Our Research Hub, a network of researchers from across the world that help us find and accurately use research, was described as a “focus” for researchers, policy makers and practitioners alike. Taking this into account, we’ve set aside more time over the next few years to find, digest and share useful and practice evidence on loneliness in older age.

Evidence-based campaigning

A member of the Cabinet Office recently told us:

“Good evidence and powerful statistics help you to create a case for driving work in this area. It’s really difficult without these powerful statistics to get anyone to sit up and take notice.”

Research adds credibility to our policy and media messages, and helps support and guide the work of our local supporters. It also makes sure that we don’t fall into the trap of assuming services work. It is important we challenge even our own preconceptions about older age and why people may experience loneliness in order to find the best possible solutions and interventions.

Last month, we presented on evidence-based campaigning and the work of the Research Hub to an international research conference in Sweden. The slides can be found here if you’d like to learn more.

‘Grey areas and gaps’

As loneliness is a very subjective and emotive state, the research literature on it is not without ‘grey areas’ or disagreements – this debate can be made more complex by lack of evidence or poor quality studies. We need to address these challenges so we can get a better handle on what loneliness is, what causes it and how we can improve support for older people at risk.

As well as visiting Sweden in September, the Campaign also hosted a roundtable at a major gerontology conference on the subject of loneliness in older age. The five speakers came from our Research Hub. We had a lively discussion with the 70+ attendees about existing research and theory, the gaps in our knowledge and ‘evidence-myths’ in loneliness research.

We’ve written a short summary that captures just some of this debate and discussion from the roundtable, recording as many of the questions or disagreements highlighted by presentations and audience members as possible.

The research base doesn’t have all the answers we might want. But campaigners and practitioners will ultimately benefit by grappling with the many challenges posed by the research base, being honest about what we don’t yet know and pushing for greater support and funding to fill these gaps.

Sign-up for the latest research and events

We will continue share the most recent research into loneliness and isolation through a quarterly Research Bulletin. Members of our Research Hub will continue to speak at our events (such as Connect & Act) on topics that are relevant to organisations working with older people.

This Research Bulletin is only available to supporters of the Campaign to End Loneliness, who also receive first information about future conferences and workshops. Becoming a supporter is free, so if you are interested in receiving this information and attending our events, please complete this short sign-up form.