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Loneliness at school

By building our understanding of loneliness, we can help ourselves and others to manage the feeling.

We all feel lonely at times – it’s a natural human emotion. We're biologically wired for social contact, and loneliness is our signal that we need more. Everyone's experiences of loneliness are different. It's subjective and personal to each of us. We each feel lonely for a lot of reasons.


It can feel painful and overwhelming, but by building our understanding of loneliness, we can help ourselves and others to manage the feeling.

A guide for teachers and education staff

We know loneliness is a huge issue affecting young people. Whilst loneliness can be a normal part of life if it is transient and not experienced too frequently, chronic loneliness can have a profoundly negative effect on the health of all ages and can be considered the 'social equivalent of physical pain'.

More research is needed on loneliness in children. An ONS survey from 2018 found that over 45% of children asked said they felt lonely 'often' or 'some of the time'.

Loneliness lesson plans

We have designed resources to help you encourage conversations around the topic. These are flexible classroom resources designed to use as you see best with your class, whether that's a full lesson or a shorter activity session. 

These plans are COMING SOON! Please sign up to our newsletter to get them delivered to your inbox. 

Young Teacher
Key talking points

If the students learn 6 things about loneliness, make it these:

1. Loneliness is completely natural.

Most of us will experience loneliness at some point in our lives. Loneliness doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you – it’s your body’s way of letting you know that you’re not getting your social needs met. Consider it like a warning sign that you need to address your social needs - like hunger is a warning sign you need to eat.

2. Loneliness isn’t just something older people feel.

People aged 16-24 are now the most likely group to be affected by loneliness, while women and people from ethnic minorities were amongst the groups most affected by loneliness during the pandemic. 45% of adults in England (25 million people) say they feel occasionally, sometimes or often lonely.*

3. There are different types of loneliness.

Some loneliness is situational, where we might have moved to a new place or live somewhere where we don’t have the right level of connection. Loneliness can be linked to a specific life event like bereavement, a relationship breakdown or becoming a new parent. Workplace loneliness can be felt at work if you are not getting the right level of connection. Emotional loneliness can happen in relationships and families, where you have people in your life but you don’t feel close to or understood by them.


There is no ‘one size fits all’ to loneliness and more often than not, you won’t know someone is feeling lonely unless they say.

4. Think about how you describe loneliness.

Very often it’s described as something we ‘suffer’ from and that we ‘admit’ to having. There is nothing to feel embarrassed or shameful about. Try swapping in ‘experience’ instead of suffering and ‘telling’ instead of admitting. Using kinder and more accepting language around loneliness will help to further remove the stigma. Or, if you’re feeling lonely and don’t feel comfortable saying it, you don’t have to explicitly name it.


Try saying something like: ‘I feel like I need some more contact or company.’ This could also work if you feel someone is lonely but don’t know how to broach it and need a gentler way in. 


5. Loneliness is fixable.

Often it can feel overwhelming and something that we will feel forever, but we can take immediate steps to feel better. Tell someone you trust how you’re feeling, think about what you need (we are all different) and make a plan to start getting those social connections you need. If you feel that loneliness is having a deeper detrimental impact on your life, reach out to a health professional.



6. Loneliness is not a mental health condition.

It is a normal human reaction when we’re not getting our social needs met. If left unchecked, loneliness can start to affect our mental and physical health but it’s important to know that first and foremost, it’s a normal and natural feeling. However horrible it can feel when you’re in it, there is always something you can do to feel better. Most loneliness is temporary.

*ONS, UCL Covid-19 Social Study and Campaign To End Loneliness. 

Tips on managing feelings of loneliness for young people

Reach out to people

The opposite to loneliness is meaningful connection. Try make contact with people you haven't spoken to in a while and see how they are. Just send them a message or comment on their social posts to start a conversation. They're probably wondering what you're up to too. You could suggest walking to school together, or meeting up at the weekend. 

Go for a mindful walk

Just being outside and seeing other people can help. Look around you, concentrate on the sights, sounds and smells. You might notice something you've never seen before. 

Take on a hobby

A great way to meet new people is to take up a hobby! What do you enjoy doing? There are YouTube videos for everything from yoga to gardening. Getting stuck into a project or hobby is a great way to occupy the mind and find people with similar interests to you. 

Continue reading...


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Left unchecked, loneliness can seriously effect our health. Find out how.

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