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A timeline of loneliness

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

Most of us will experience loneliness in our lives – fact. What are the stages we’re most likely to feel lonely and what can we do about it?


Most loneliness is associated with change. There are common key life events in which we can experience loneliness. We’re sure we can all recognise or relate to many of them…

Key life points for loneliness

  • Starting a new school

  • Leaving home and going to university

  • Starting a new job

  • Moving house

  • Becoming a new parent

  • Children flying the nest

  • Retirement

  • Bereavement

We can also feel loneliness through situational factors like divorce and the break-up of the family unit, or when a relationship ends. We can feel lonely if we experience health or financial issues, or if we move to a new place or country.


The most important thing to remember is that loneliness happens around change – and change is a natural part of life.


If you can, it always helps to plan a ‘social strategy’ if you know there are changes up ahead. For example, starting a new hobby or joining a club, finding like-minded support groups, planning new activities or holidays. We say at Marmalade that instead of seeing empty gaps in your life, imagine them as blank canvases on which to build new experiences and make new friendships and memories. Happy painting!


Sarah, 24

“When I knew I was going to move to London for my new job, I had a lot of practical issues to sort out – finding a place to live, paying bills etc. But the social side was equally as important as well. I am a social person and I wanted to make sure I had a plan in place to make new friends. Before I even moved, I joined a local Facebook group relevant to my new area and got my place booked to join the local netball team’


How loneliness changes across our lifetimes

Our social needs change over our lives. When we are younger we tend to rely more heavily on our friendships, as well as the number of friends we have and how much we physically see them. It’s also important to have flexibility and space in our friendships. We all have different things happening in our lives, which means we might not always have lots of time to see friends or make plans. This especially plays out as we get older: we tend to have fewer friendships as family life, work and other commitments become our priorities.


A study by Norwegian researchers showed that amongst adults aged 30-64 the quality of friendships became paramount and didn’t correlate with how many friends people had or how often they saw each other. As we age, we have fewer expectations of our friendships, so don’t feel bad or guilty if you only have one or a handful of friends or confidantes. For more information on knowing more about the social contact you need click here >> 



Nicolaisen and Thorson 2016 ‘What are friendships for’

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Image by Brooke Lark

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