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Student Loneliness - a guide for academic and support staff

Guidance on how academic and support staff can encourage social connections and help to reduce student loneliness

What is loneliness?

Loneliness should not be confused with being alone: not all people who are alone feel lonely, and some people may be surrounded by people but still feel very much alone, or lonely. It can be experienced in numerous ways, sometimes it may be trigged by a change in someone’s situation; other times there may be no obvious reason at all. All of us are likely to feel lonely at some point in our lifetime and although it is a relatively common feeling, it can feel extremely isolating and difficult to verbalise. “I feel lonely” are three very hard words to say.

Who is likely to be lonely?

Most of us are likely to feel lonely at some point in our lifetime, and it is important not to make assumptions about anyone. At the same time it is helpful to be aware of who may be at increased risk of experiencing loneliness.

Recent government data identifies young people aged 16 to 24 as one demographic group that reports heightened levels of loneliness. Within – and indeed outside of – this age group, there are also certain groups that are more prone to feeling lonely and experiencing loneliness, and who may require extra support.

What is available to students who feel lonely?

There are a number of initiatives available at the university to support students who are feeling lonely:

  • Social Networking Group – a weekly supported social group for any student feeling lonely / isolated
  • Umii - a free app that can connect you to other University of Bath students based on your shared interests
  • Social prescribing at Bath – a variety of non-medical alternatives to support wellbeing and social connections such as art, gardening and exercise
  • Campus buddies - available to first year students that identify on the autism spectrum, experience mental health difficulties relating to social anxiety or who have social communication difficulties
  • Bereavement social group – a monthly social support group for students who have experienced a bereavement at any stage of their life.
  • Autism social group – a bi-weekly social groups for students who identify as being on the autistic spectrum (no diagnosis is necessary)
  • LGBTQ+ Brunch & Support – a facilitated support group for students who are questioning or exploring their LGBTQ+ identity
  • the Black Students Network is a free online wellbeing programme for Black students - an opportunity to be inspired, empowered, and challenged to take control of your wellbeing and self-development
  • Talk Club- a peer support / student-led group for men (including anyone that identifies as male / a man)
  • International Support Service – a signposting and advice service for international students
  • Be Well App – where all of Student Support’s wellbeing events and activities are listed
  • Peer mentoring - new undergrad students can talk to their peer mentor about being at Uni, getting involved in activities and any other concerns they may have. They can email peer support if they’re not sure who their mentor is
  • volunteering can help people make friends and feel part of a community
  • The SU offers loads of activities that students can get involved with. Find out What’s On
  • students can get involved in free social sports as part of Bath Active
  • there are various groups that students can join to meet like-minded people (such as LGBT+ group, mature students, feminism and gender equality, race equality group and disability action groups) and get involved in activities such as Arts Workshop with professional artists
  • Student Living programme of activities – free events and groups for all students living in University Halls
  • Doctoral Café –fortnightly coffee and cakes for PhD students to network and connect with peers/

For even more ideas you may want to read getting support if you or someone else is feeling lonely or isolated. This is a great resource to share with students.

How can academic and support staff start conversations with students about loneliness?

  • ask your students how they are settling (back) into University life
  • you can specifically ask things like “have you started to make friends?”, “are you involved in any societies or enjoying any hobbies?”, “have you been to any events”?
  • if they answer no to these questions, you may observe students look a bit lost or sad
  • not all students will want help. But you can try saying something like “would you like some help with meeting people / making friends”?
  • ask if they have any hobbies or interests, and suggest they look at whether the The SU has any societies linked to their hobby Societies
  • remind them that they can join a society any time, not just during Freshers week
  • offer to send them some information such as this website Support if you are feeling lonely
  • you can ask if anything in particular is stopping a student from meeting people and recommend they contact the Wellbeing Service to talk about this in more depth
  • reassure students that there are other students like them who are struggling to meet people or find their place. It is important that they know that they are not alone in feeling lonely
  • remind students not to compare themselves to others, and that most people are hiding a struggle of some kind that the rest of us can’t see
  • remember you don’t have to have all the answers – just simply checking in and sign posting them to the right place can make all the difference

Further reading about student loneliness

  • read Cassie Wilson’s Blog for the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Student Experience).
  • read the latest research from Wonkhe and Pearson on The four foundations of belonging at university and how the learning environment can encourage student connection and inclusion.

Support with your mental health and wellbeing

If you are a student and want to speak to our Wellbeing Team about your mental health or wellbeing please book a wellbeing appointment.