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It has been said that in the 21st Century loneliness has become an epidemic. Although this fact is disputed, it is clear that loneliness has a deep effect on people of all ages and from all walks of life.

Loneliness can have a major impact on health, life expectancy and mental wellbeing. Recent studies suggest that it is as harmful as obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Feeling lonely can lead to depression, anxiety, disrupted sleep and stress. It can also be a factor in heart disease, increased blood pressure and degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Facts and links about loneliness/mental health and the arts/dance

The arts have proven effective in improving both mental and physical health. A World Health Organisation report analysed evidence from over 900 publications to show it can help health issues such as diabetes and obesity as well as mental ill health. Dance has been found to improve movement for people with Parkinson’s disease.

In our Moving Together project we collaborated with Dr. Bronwyn Tarr, an anthropology researcher from the University of Oxford. She approached Justice in Motion to help provide a creative output for her research into loneliness and connection and the power of dance and movement to create a sense of community. Working with the Archway Foundation who provide support services for the chronically lonely in Oxford, we recorded conversations with those struggling with loneliness to inspire choreography and dance. At the IF Oxford Science and Ideas Festival in 2020, some of the choreography was taught in online tutorials to create a live dance flashmob in a virtual space, emulating the experience of dancing together synchronously, creating a sense of community and belonging. 

Definitions

Loneliness can be described as a mismatch between the quality or quantity of relationships an individual has, and what they would like to have. This is not the same as solitude, which many people enjoy, or social isolation. There are many types of loneliness that can affect people differently depending on their circumstances. Social loneliness refers to a lack of connection to other people or groups. Emotional loneliness is when relationships with friends and family are not as close as desired. Existential loneliness is a deep seated feeling about the meaning of life and our purpose within it.

Click on the buttons below to find out more about differences between them.

“Music & movement dispels the feeling of loneliness”

“music and movements disspels the feeling of loneliness… it fills the void of loneliness with hope and joy.”

Chris, participant

“Music and dance… a very good way of moving out of loneliness”

“music and dance can be a very intimate and a very expressive connection with another …it requires so much creativity – so much giving of another person… it’s very helpful, it’s a very good way of moving out of loneliness”

Particpant

Helplines

Samaritans (available: 24/7)
Call: 116 123

Age UK (available: 8am–7pm Daily)
Call: 0800 6781602

Shout (available 24/7)
Text: SHOUT to 85258

Further Reading

Loneliness Annual Report 2019
(HM Government)

Surprising facts about loneliness
(Psychology Today)

Lets Talk Loneliness Campaign
(Dept. for Culture, Media and Sport)