Social isolation and loneliness are increasing public health concerns across the UK. Research by the Campaign to End Loneliness has shown that:
- Lacking social connections is a comparable risk factor for early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day
- Loneliness has a worse impact than well-known risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity
- Loneliness increases the likelihood of mortality by 26%
Uttlesford Community Action Research worked to increase social action and reduce isolation and loneliness in three communities in Uttlesford; Saffron Walden, Little Bardfield, Takeley and Little Canfield.
This project was delivered by The Young Foundation in collaboration with Essex Partners, Uttlesford District Council, Essex County Council, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, CVS Uttlesford, Volunteer Uttlesford, Anglia Ruskin University Health Lab, West Essex CCG and the Uttlesford Health and Wellbeing Board. The main body of the project took place over a 6 month period between late June – October 2017, with community-led action ongoing.
The aim of the project was to learn more about the social networks and connections that exist in these communities so that local stakeholders can work together to best support the people and projects that are contributing to community wellbeing and reducing isolation and loneliness.
It involved a range of qualitative research methods including interviews, informal conversations and mapping activities with stakeholders, residents and groups. Community events arranged in each neighbourhood shared the insights and kicked off a discussion about next steps for supporting local social action.
As a result, a number of new and existing local community-led initiatives are tackling the issue of isolation and loneliness, in a way which is reflective of the needs of their community. These include a resident coffee morning club and community BBQ, a therapeutic horticulture group, a ‘pay it forward’ suspended coffee scheme and more.
Top three – research illustrations depicting our findings across the three communities. Credit Temujen Gunawardena.
Bottom – photo compilation from events held in Saffron Walden, Little Bardfield and Takeley and Little Canfield.