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mental health

Mental Health Awareness Week - 5 ways you can help older people with loneliness

jeremy sharpe Jeremy Sharpe
4 min

What is the relationship between loneliness and mental health?


Loneliness and mental health have always been intertwined issues. Whilst loneliness is not a mental health condition, it can lead to mental health problems including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and increased stress (1). Equally, mental health problems can often lead to significant experiences of loneliness and so the two issues can exacerbate each other. Research shows us that loneliness with severe depression is associated with early mortality (2) and loneliness is a risk factor for depression in later life (3). 

We also read of several examples in the Bible describing ways in which well-known characters clearly grapple with some of these issues. Elijah, after being used by God to defeat the prophets of Baal, feared for his life and ran away. We then find him sitting underneath a broom bush saying to God, ‘I have had enough, Lord… Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors (4). 

It is highly likely that all of us know of at least one person for whom some of these challenges are a daily reality.  

Here are five practical ways we can all use to make a small difference to the lives of those around us who may be experiencing loneliness.

knowing people

1. Be alert

In a world with an ever-reducing level and frequency of human contact, many already isolated people are seeking opportunities for conversation. This may include family, friends, neighbours, church or community. Many of us live busy lives and so it is easy to ‘miss’ those who may be in this situation. It is therefore important to look for spontaneous or arranged opportunities for interaction.

2. Be sensitive

Over one third of people say they would never admit to feeling lonely (5) and for this reason one of the key objectives of the government’s ‘Loneliness Strategy' (6) focuses on reducing this stigma. It is therefore important to be aware of this and do what we can to make people feel at ease, welcomed and valued for who they are.

feeling lonely

3. Be flexible

It is often possible to engage with people in this way without needing to create too much extra space in our schedule. Why not invite someone who lives on their own to dinner or take them out for coffee or to visit a local place of interest? Older people particularly appreciate written letters and phone calls. You could also visit or call someone as part of a local befriending scheme. 

4. Be prayerful

It is amazing how God responds to our prayers if we are specific. If we pray for someone whose life we can impact through regular, occasional or one-off friendship, we can be confident that our prayers will be answered.

5. Be realistic

It is also important that we look after ourselves and recognise our own boundaries and limitations. As a charity, we always emphasise the need to avoid overstretching ourselves. If you have a spare hour, either on a weekly or fortnightly basis, don’t try to do more than this, and be satisfied that you are making a difference.

We can all play our part in one small way

The ministry of Jesus is full of examples of those on the margins of society being noticed and valued for who they are. This challenge remains crucial for us today in our fast-paced and ever-changing world. Please do prayerfully consider some practical ways in which you can do the same for those in your life using the above tips as a starting point.

Find out more about the work of Linking Lives UK

Linking Lives UK is a Christian charity that equips Christians and churches to combat loneliness in their local communities. This includes:

  • Monthly ‘Power of One’ Webinar – This free 1-hour session provides practical suggestions to support those around us that we can all apply.
  • ‘Good Conversations Volunteer Training’ – This 2-hour training session is aimed at those who regularly volunteer in community activities such as community cafes and drop-in centres and provides guidance around ‘effective listening skills’, boundaries and safeguarding.
  • Two’s Company Befriending schemes – Using a tried and tested model, we provide a framework to enable churches to set up and run befriending schemes aimed at socially isolated older people.

Support Linking Lives UK



(1) Mind. About Loneliness. (July 2019). https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/loneliness/about-loneliness/

(2) Holwerda, T.J., van Tilburg, T.G., Deeg, D.J., Schutter, N., Van, R., Dekker, J., Stek, M.L., Beekman, A.T. & Schoevers, R.A. (2016). Impact of loneliness and depression on mortality: results from the Longitudinal Ageing Study Amsterdam. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 209(2), 127–134.

(3) Courtin, E., & Knapp, M. (2017). Social isolation, loneliness and health in old age: a scoping review. Health & Social Care in the Community, 25(3), 799–812.

(4) 1 Kings 19:4

(5) Mental Health Foundation. (May 2022). All the Lonely People.

(6) Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sports. (Oct 2018). A connected society: a strategy for tackling loneliness – laying the foundations for change.

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Written by

Jeremy Sharpe

Jeremy is responsible for the strategic development of Linking Lives UK which includes setting key objectives, measuring outcomes and supporting the staff team and local partner projects.