Loneliness continues to attract intense media attention, although the focus is almost always on the 'chronically lonely' - those reporting dissatisfaction with social relationships for two or more consecutive years. Yet people who are temporarily separated from family and friends and undergo important life transitions or disruptions are similarly vulnerable to periods of loneliness.
Such groups might include migrant workers moving to the UK for employment, students who leave home to study, lone workers, and those who find themselves in the position of needing to provide full-time care to a family member. Due to the episodic nature of loneliness for these groups, they may be less likely to take steps to deal with it.
Through their study, 'Loneliness in the Digital Age: Building Strategies for Empathy and Trust', our researchers will work with these groups to explore their experiences of feeling lonely and consider ways in which technical interventions could play a role in combating this.
Professor Julie Barnett, of the Department of Psychology and co-investigator on the project explains: “In considering whether and how creative uses of technology might play a role in enabling people to manage episodes of loneliness, it is vital to really understand the experiences of the groups that we are working with. This is the main focus of the early stages of the work being conducted here at Bath.”
Lead researcher Professor Mike Wilson from the School of the Arts, English and Drama at Loughborough University said: “It is ironic that in an age where we are more digitally connected than ever to the world around us, increasing numbers of people are experiencing periods of loneliness. Our aim is to better understand what it means to be transiently lonely, to map how and when these feelings occur, and to work with those affected to explore how this loneliness could be alleviated through creative interventions and technology.”
The LiDA project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), along with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), and brings together researchers from Bath with Loughborough University and the Universities of Newcastle, Exeter and Northumbria.
According to the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, our psychology research was independently judged to be sixth nationally for grade point average with 84 per cent assessed as 'world leading'. To find out more about our REF performance see http://www.bath.ac.uk/research/performance.