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Loneliness Connects Us – Exploring youth loneliness in the UK

Youth loneliness is an issue that has come of age; indeed, loneliness might be seen as the issue of the age. With the appointment of the Minister for Loneliness it is apparent that recent media, civil society, research activity and not least the campaigning and advocacy of the Jo Cox Commission is ensuring loneliness is taken seriously. But what kind of issue is youth loneliness? And, how might we take it seriously? The Loneliness Connects Us project is youth co-research project that brings the voice of young people into the growing conversation about youth loneliness and answer these questions.

Research Aims:

  • To develop new narratives and ways of thinking and talking about loneliness, beyond medicalised discourses and towards more inclusive ways of belonging.
  • To locate youth loneliness within contemporary experiences of precarity, poverty and austerity politics in addition to settled truths about social media and isolation.
  • To bring the diverse voices and perspectives of young people into dialogue and decision making about addressing problematic and painful forms of loneliness.
  • To work with young people to explore and develop youth-led approaches to reducing painful forms of loneliness and develop more cooperative ways of being with one another.

Loneliness Connects Us front cover


We worked with a group of 14 youth co-researchers from 42nd Street and MMU programmes, exploring issues related to youth loneliness through arts-based and creative methods. In total we spoke to 133 young people in Manchester, Rhyll, Ballymena, Glasgow and Great Yarmouth.

For more information read our report:

Loneliness Connects Us: Young people exploring and experiencing youth loneliness and friendship.


This was a project that aimed to understand youth loneliness and create new knowledge and practices to help young people to navigate painful experiences of loneliness. We recommend:

  • Develop new ways of thinking and talking about youth loneliness, beyond medicalised discourses of epidemics and towards more expansive understandings of youth and more inclusive ways of belonging.
  • Arts-based and creative methods create spaces and relationships where young people can find connection and navigate painful forms of loneliness.
  • Restore threatened youth work provision and fund a plurality of options so that all young people have someone who knows and accepts them for who they are.
  • Re-imagine interventions beyond individual funded projects and towards commons spaces and social movements to bring into being more co-operative and convivial communities.
  • Youth led social action is necessary to develop the practical and political change, benefiting youth participants and their peers.

Watch Missing, a short film exploring loneliness and its impact on young people, and how young people created an immersive, theatrical experience to talk about it. Created by The Horsfall @ 42nd Street, Manchester Metropolitan University and funded by The Co-op Foundation.

Media Coverage:

‘Conversation that Matter’ (Radio interview)

Funded by

Co-op Foundation logo




Developing the Research Project – Call for participants (2016)

What is loneliness?

What is the cause of loneliness?

Is there a difference between loneliness and being alone?

How do people describe loneliness?

How can we feel less alone?

Loneliness is often talked about as something which just affects older people in society but we all know that each of us feel lonely or isolated, no matter our age.

This is where you come in!

42nd Street is working with academics from the Childhood Youth and Community centre at the Manchester Metropolitan University, and young people to find out what young people across the UK think and feel about the issue of loneliness.

‘Tackling loneliness amongst young people in Manchester’, an interview with That’s Manchester TV.

Sounds interesting? Here’s what is involved…

Becoming a Peer Researcher:

Training for young people aged 14-25 years in different research methods so you can get involved and become a peer researcher.

We will introduce you to a wide range of material to help you to get to grips with the complex nature of loneliness. As a group of peer researchers you will be exploring key questions like:  What is loneliness? What is the cause of loneliness? Is there a difference between loneliness and being alone? How do people describe loneliness? We will explore these questions, and many more, through workshops with local artists and practitioners.

Sessions include: ethical questions; community philosophy; urban games; immersive theatre, and DIY making.

As well as peer training days. Peers will also meet on Tuesdays to share their ideas and other material related to the project. As we progress and expand our network we will also work with local media and other creative groups to further shape the direction of our project.

What do Young People Experience in Greater Manchester?

In the second stage the peers, along with the researchers, will host their own loneliness themed workshops throughout the city. This will capture the voices of 100 young people in Greater Manchester and be the body of our research.

Research across the UK

Then we need to understand what those young people shared. Youth loneliness has been described as an epidemic. How can we ensure what we capture reaches the right places? How can we present the material to raise awareness? Once we begin to answer these questions we will share our outcomes – this is stage three. The peers will have the opportunity to visit London, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales to talk to a further 80 young people. And along with what we share and find while on the road will be a loneliness project performance. A performance co-created by the peers with the help of an artist. Similar to the method in stage two, this will raise the awareness of youth loneliness and encourage the audience to share their thoughts and opinions. What we find out as we talk to young people across the nation, will help us to compare what might be similar or different from young people’s experiences in Greater Manchester.

“Archive of our own”

As the project develops, we will develop and grow an ‘archive of our own’, an online space where peers can document clips, articles an images which help us to understand youth loneliness.

The Maker, directed by Christopher Kezelos, is one example. The film depicts a rabbit-like creature that is in a race against time to create a companion. He spends his whole short existence working tirelessly towards his goal. With a book as his guide he sows, glues, moulds and every now and then he takes a glance at the hourglass, just for a second, before he goes back to work.

Once his creation is complete he’s happy yet disappointed as she has no life. He reads with her, tries to teach her but he eventually he accepts that he isn’t truly satisfied with pretending that she’s alive. In a final attempt to bring her to life he plays her a song which was the key to giving her consciousness. At last he isn’t alone and the two characters share an embrace for just a few moments. After a life of loneliness, he experiences true happiness, companionship and achievement. Now his time has run out and he passes on the book to his creation before he disappears and the hourglass resets.

Campaigns and Change-Making

This project will inform a new campaign to tackle youth loneliness. You will play a key role in shaping the campaign!

Why in an age where more young people feel connected, do more young people feel alone?


Feel like you have the answer? Or think you can add to the conversation? Or maybe you would like to just pass by and check us out?



If so, please contact Kurtis Angell: kurtis.angell@42ndstreet.org.uk or James Duggan J.Duggan@mmu.ac.uk for more information.