Loneliness and Social Isolation



Title of Talk:

Loneliness and Social Isolation by Alex Dunedin




Bullet points of what you would like to talk about:

  • The difference between aloneness and loneliness
  • The rise in loneliness in the UK
  • The effects of loneliness on people’s health and wellbeing
  • My personal experience of loneliness at points in my life
  • The importance of an enriched environment for social mammals
  • The loss of social habitat in the United Kingdom


A few paragraphs on your subject:

There has been a great increase in the attention which has been paid to loneliness in the last few years.  Lots of research and charities has been formed around studying this social phenomenon as it badly impacts people’s health and wellbeing.  Lots of different factors seem to be involved in creating social isolation in the United Kingdom as the means for people being able to socialise and create social connections are becoming sparse.
The social and economic landscape of the UK has suffered from various kinds of fragmentation and this is now being seen in increases in the mental health issues, drug and alcohol addiction, a spike and rise in deaths due to overdose.  If we look at the rises in these problems their increase seems to be connected with the austerity policies, the rise in the costs of living, and the diminishment of social spaces available to people.
There is a parallel in behaviour and health when we look at what happens with animals that are kept in captivity.  The impact on cognitive function and the development of the brain is striking when we compare wild animals to domestic ones.  The development of stress behaviours and stress related illnesses is well known and understood in the context of keeping animals in zoos and aquariums; put simply, if they do not have the space and features of the environment which allow them to express their natural behaviours then they become ill and suffer behavioural problems.
From my own experience I have known social isolation to have had a damaging effect on my well being and that my social isolation has been linked with a lack of wellbeing.  In this talk I am going to explore the research I have read on the importance of an enriched environment for the health and wellbeing of people relating lifelong learning activities as a vital part of our sociological habitat as homo sapiens – human beings.

A few paragraphs about you:

I am a writer and thinker who got very interested in informal education.  Having spent the last several years developing the Ragged University project, it has come to be a means of enriching my existence and creating the means for my thriving through meaningful connections with the people and world around me.
I am very interested in poverty research, ethics, human rights and the field of human development.  These areas I think inform what education is in its very core nature and I have come to understand learning as vital for a healthy consciousness.  It is through these lenses that I explore and analyse education and its importance in the lives of individuals and communities.

What free internet knowledge resources would you recommend to others if they wish to explore your chosen theme further?


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Report of the Director of Public Health 2014. All the lonely people: social isolation and loneliness in County Durham:

The Mental Health Foundation report ‘The Lonely Society’:

The Office for National Statistics report ‘Loneliness – What characteristics and circumstances are associated with feeling lonely?’:


This event took place at St John’s Church Hall (Princes St, Edinburgh, EH2 4BJ) at 5.30pm on 16th Dec 2018

by Alex Dunedin