Rural Isolation and Loneliness

It seems that scarcely a week goes by when the local or national media are not expressing concern about isolation or loneliness in our society.
Loneliness can have a profound effect on our physical as well as mental health, highlighted by the World’s experience of COVID-19.
The UK government decided to act after the publication of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, a detailed study into the scale and extent of the problem. The Commission set up in her name after her death, was intended as a legacy of the power of politics to unite, rather than divide communities.


It is important to understand the difference between isolation and loneliness:

  • ISOLATION is defined as the absence of social contact e.g. family, friends, access to services or community involvement. The concept is therefore tangible and measurable and can often lead to loneliness. Isolation can often be alleviated by practical steps: improved transport links, increased use of the internet and localisation of services and resources.
  • LONELINESS is a subjective feeling when there is a disparity between quantity and quality of social relationships that we have and those we want.


It is estimated that there are 15,000 rural churches in the UK. Although some have a small attendance, there remains a unique opportunity for churches to respond to issues of social isolation, as they often provide key community facilities and social interaction in rural communities.

In many rural areas, the only buildings available (if any) which enable local people to meet socially and/or provide community activities are pubs, village halls and church buildings. Often, church members have good links with the wider community and – along with other residents – can be a lifeline to identify and support those with limited mobility.


For information about printed copies of the toolkit please email


Rural Table Talk Church & Community

Rural Table Talk is a conversational game that creates space for the big (and not so big) questions of life The Ugly Duckling Company.

We have created two Table Talk minis with an introduction and 15 questions which can be used either in a Church or Community setting. Contact to order yours!

Download the resource

Rural Isolation and Loneliness: A toolkit for rural churches was launched in 2014 when ARC produced a report for churches to use to support loneliness and isolation within their communities.

The toolkit has recently been updated and refreshed – there is also a version available in the Welsh language here.


Print your own pledge cards!

Pledge cards were designed to encourage individuals to make a difference in their community e.g. saying a hello to a neighbour, volunteer, bake a cake, etc.

The pledge doesn’t have to be overwhelming rather something simple and achievable. Write the pledge and keep it in a visible, prominent place.

Print yours by downloading our PDF here.

Thank you to our funders: the Yorkshire Churches Rural Business Support, National Lottery (Awards for All programme), In Light Trust and Roger and Douglas Charitable Trust who have supported our work from the first pilots, to the development of our webpage and suite of resources.

For any further information about the printed resources or the project please us via and if you would like to make a donation to towards our work, please use our donate form.


Click on the images below to view YouTube videos of our Yorkshire pilot projects, where the Rural Isolation and Loneliness toolkit has been used to benefit each of the rural communities.

Latest news on Loneliness and Isolation

The Campaign to End Loneliness is joining the What Works Centre for Wellbeing

Read more here.

Loneliness & Social Isolation in Mental Health Research Network

Do you have research, resources and other activities related to loneliness, social isolation and mental health during COVID-19 to share?

Loneliness looks like...

“We want to amplify your voices and keep the conversation around loneliness flowing. Sharing your story could help others recognise their feelings, make them feel less alone and more connected, and encourage them to speak up too!

Whether you want to submit a quick video talking about a time when you’ve felt lonely, a photo/quote describing your experiences and/or something that has helped you cope with loneliness… We’d love to hear from you!

Your experiences of loneliness can be from any time in your life – not just during the pandemic.”

Great Get Together

Mapping loneliness during the pandemic

Areas with a higher concentration of younger people and areas with higher rates of unemployment tended to have higher rates of loneliness during the study period.

Office for National Statistics

The longest year

The Longest Year: Life under local restrictions report explores the experiences of people living and working in areas under tighter local restrictions across the UK.

British Red Cross

Church in Action report on Church’s community response to the pandemic.

Loneliness during coronavirus

“One of the feelings millions of us are experiencing during the current coronavirus pandemic is loneliness. In our combined efforts to stay safe and save lives, our usual ways of seeing family, friends or just familiar faces have been put on pause.”

Mental Health Foundation

Government announces £7.5 million funding to tackle loneliness during winter

Funding will help provide immediate and targeted relief to those most at risk of loneliness during the coronavirus pandemic


Rural isolation and loneliness - statistics

Facts and figures

Loneliness beyond COVID-19

Learning the lessons of the pandemic for a less lonely future

The Marmalade Trust’s guide to loneliness

By building our understanding of loneliness, we can help ourselves and others to manage the feeling.