Friendship and the Loneliness Epidemic

What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.

(Kurt Vonnegut)

Our world has never been more connected. Technology, the internet, and social media make it possible to be connected to people across the world, 24-hours a day. And yet, mere access to others doesn’t seem to be enough to tackle the deep experience of loneliness that many of us feel.

Recent studies have found that 45% of people in the UK feel lonely sometimes or often. Half a million older people go five or six days a week without seeing another human being, and more than half of British adults fear that if they were to suddenly disappear, nobody would notice for a long time. Loneliness has disastrous effects on our mental, emotional and physical health. It is said to be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. But many who experience loneliness don’t know where to turn for help, and the perceived stigma around it means that one in five of us hide our feelings of loneliness from others.

Many of the statistics on loneliness in the UK predate the COVID-19 pandemic, and whilst some will have made new connections over the past two years, as communities rallied round to help each other through lockdown, many people’s experience of loneliness has only intensified. It is such a pervasive problem that loneliness has been chosen as the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

At Renew Oxford, we will consider how followers of Jesus can respond to the deepest needs of our city, and we are looking forward to hearing from two speakers who will help us explore this important theme.   

Joy Johnston is a Senior Civil Servant, currently responsible for Volunteering and Tackling Loneliness in the Civil Society and Youth directorate at Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). She has held various volunteer roles in charities, including as a trustee, debt adviser, youth worker and church leader. These roles have given her firsthand experience of the important contribution faith groups and community organisations play in society.

Sheridan Voysey is an author, broadcaster, and regular presenter of Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2’s Zoe Ball Breakfast Show. He is the author of eight books, including The Making of Us: Who We Can Become When Life’s Doesn’t Go as Planned, and his next multi-platform project, Friendship Lab, will explore the art and science of forming and deepening adult friendship.

Together, Joy and Sheridan will help us think about the themes of loneliness and friendship, and consider how individuals and churches can make a difference in this vital area.  

For information about the event, and to book your ticket, visit the Renew Oxford event page.

Date: Saturday June 18th 2022, 09.30-15.00
Venue: The King’s Centre, Osney Mead, OX2 0ES
Cost: £20 (early bird rate) / £10 concessions 

Photo by micheile dot com on Unsplash

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