Thinking and measuring loneliness across the life course

Wednesday 12th June, 10.30 – 16.00

Brooks Building, Birley Fields Campus, MMU, Manchester

Loneliness is currently the focus of considerable interest for policy makers, practitioners and academics in the UK and internationally. The translation of approaches to conceptualising and measuring loneliness from academic research to policy, practice and interventions to reduce loneliness across the lifecourse requires careful thought.

The workshop will present findings from significant loneliness projects (e.g. BBC Loneliness Experiment, Loneliness Connects Us) and a conceptual review of loneliness research (1945-2018). We will then consider this body of knowledge in relation to experiences of performativity (e.g. ‘what gets measured gets done’) in attempts to measure youth work and the creative response in this field.

This aims to be an informal discussion between academics and practitioners, with an emphasis in discussion on how approaches to measuring loneliness help or hinder community-based projects to reduce loneliness across the lifecourse.

If you would like more information or to attend please email J.Duggan [at]


Measuring loneliness among youth: How do we do it and how might we do it better?

Professor Manuela Barreto (University of Exeter), Professor Pamela Qualter, (Manchester Institute of Education, University of Manchester), and Professor Christina Victor (Brunel University) 


In this session, Pamela will discuss how loneliness among children and adolescents is currently measured.  She will discuss the use of single item measures as well as more complex multi-item measurement, and show that youth who are classified as lonely on one measure are not always classified as such on another.  The effects of genderized reporting of loneliness will be discussed in light of those findings.  In addition, Pamela will discuss data from the BBC Loneliness Experiment, which she conducted with Manuela Barreto (Exeter) and Christina Victor (Brunel), where they measured the frequency, intensity, and duration of loneliness as a way to get at individual experiences; how those different aspects of loneliness link to demographic information and outcomes will be discussed.

Towards an Understanding of Loneliness Across the Lifecourse - Findings from a Conceptual Review

Professor Christina Victor, Professor Norma Daykin, Professor Catherine Meads, Professor Alan Tomlinson, Karen Gray, Jack Lane and Professor Louise Mansfield,

One of the key challenges to wellbeing is loneliness. Loneliness has been largely seen as a problem of old age. However, the contemporary policy interest in the broad topic area of wellbeing has generated renewed interest in loneliness as a factor that compromises wellbeing across the adult life course rather than being confined to old age/older adults. As with the concept of wellbeing, loneliness is a debated and contested concept. There are several underlying assumptions about loneliness. We presume a universal understanding of what loneliness is, that it is a homogeneous, static and/or linear experience, that it is quantitatively accessible and therefore measurable. We further presume that there is ‘something’ that we can and should do to prevent or cure it. However, there is a debate as to what loneliness is. This paper presents the findings of a conceptual review of loneliness. It reports on published literature produced post 1945 and unpublished (grey) literature which has employed qualitative methods to examine and understand key domains of loneliness cross the adult lifecourse. The implications for the findings for policy and practice in the area of loneliness are discussed.

Loneliness Connects Us: A youth co-research project into the social conditions of youth loneliness.

Janet Batsleer and Dr James Duggan (Faculty of Education, MMU)

The presentation reflects on the Loneliness Connects Us youth co-research project (​) in which young people researched youth loneliness through a carousel of creative co-produced methods​. The case is made for considering loneliness within a neoliberalising context of inequality, precarity and poverty with consequences for how academic and youth projects engage youth loneliness.

When 'what works' doesn't work: performativity and the effects of measurement.

Dr Tania de St Croix (Kings College London).

Drawing on published work and an on-going project, this presentation reflects on the lessons for the loneliness agenda from the ‘impact agenda’ in youth work, in which organisations face pressures to predefine and measure their outcomes. The presentation describes creative responses to re-think the purposes and processes of evaluation and accountability – in youth work and beyond – in ways that genuinely value the perspectives of young people and grassroots practitioners.

Connected: A young men's guide to hope

Sally Carr MBE (Operational Director, The Proud Trust

This presentation will explore ‘Connected: A young men’s guide to hope’ a resource funded by the Co-operative Foundation to help young men navigate experiences of loneliness. 

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