In a highly connected world, more and more of us are suffering from loneliness. It is more than just an emotional problem, as it can cause poor physical and mental health and raise the risk of suicide.

Social isolation can lead to increased feelings of loneliness. However, loneliness isn’t the same as social isolation. People can be isolated yet not feel lonely - even if we have very few social contacts, it’s the quality of that relationship which has the most impact on our feelings of loneliness. For instance, we can be living with a spouse and still suffer from loneliness. Cohabiting can heighten emotional distance if there’s no form of intimacy.

Personal circumstances can contribute to loneliness, such as loss of a spouse or friend, retirement, being a single parent or carer, disability or sickness, moving to a new area, even a new church.