Centre for Loneliness Studies

The Centre for Loneliness Studies carries out internationally recognised, high quality academic research on loneliness which is theoretically driven and both informed by, and able to inform, policy and practice.

Student volunteering in a care home

The Centre offers an innovative, multidisciplinary approach to loneliness research, seeking to understand the wider societal explanations for, and potential solutions to, loneliness across the life-course.

For further information about the centre for Loneliness Studies please contact:

Our aims

Our key research questions

Our themes


Our aims

  • To contribute to existing, and develop new, theoretical approaches to loneliness;
  • To contribute to a developing international evidence base on loneliness interventions using various research methods including realist approach to evaluations, Randomised Controlled Trials (where possible), and economic evaluations;
  • To draw on a range of existing, and develop new, innovate methodological approaches to carry out new analysis and produce novel empirical research findings at local, national, and international levels;
  • To work closely, in partnership, with key external stakeholders, to ensure that our research can be translated into policy and practice;
  • To involve Experts by Experience (individuals who have been or are affected by loneliness).

Our key research questions

  • Which groups in society are most at risk of loneliness and why?
  • What are the psychological and wider societal determinants of loneliness?
  • What are the social, economic, psychological and health implications of loneliness? What can be done about loneliness? What is working locally, nationally and internationally?
  • What are the social, economic, psychological and health benefits of tackling loneliness?

Our themes

The Centre seeks to explore the wider societal explanations for and potential solutions to loneliness by focusing on the following themes:

  • The built environment - design, spaces and places, including open public spaces, housing, residential care;
  • Community enablers – participation, engagement, interaction, social capital, security and safety;
  • Technology – companion and social robots, assisted living technology, digital society, artificial intelligence, epigenetics;
  • Health, wellbeing and social care – prevention, safeguarding, care implications of loneliness;
  • Employment, business and work practices - links to productivity, quality of working life, absenteeism, collegiate spirit, the role of employers;
  • Childhood, families and education - the way in which early years shape risk factors of loneliness, role of families, childhood and educational institutions.


Project Funding Details Associated Links and Publications Project Co-ordinator(s)
Evaluation of Fit as a Fiddle Age UK This project involved the evaluation of Age UK’s Fit as a Fiddle programme which ran from January 2014 to June 2015. The programme involved three connected projects: Fit for the Future, Cascade Training and Dementia Friendly communities. We evaluated these through the quantitative analysis of data collected in a longitudinal survey of participants, case studies, focus groups, and in-depth interviews. The Fit for the Future project had a range of benefits for older people who participated in it, including an enhancement of their social connections.

Age UK’s Fit for the Future

Project Evaluation Report 

Andrea Wigfield with Erika Kispeter and Sarah Alden
Project Title   Details    

Evaluation of Fit as a Fiddle

Funded by Age UK. 

This project involved the evaluation of Age UK’s Fit as a Fiddle programme which ran from January 2014 to June 2015. The programme involved three connected projects: Fit for the Future, Cascade Training and Dementia Friendly communities. We evaluated these through the quantitative analysis of data collected in a longitudinal survey of participants, case studies, focus groups, and in-depth interviews. The Fit for the Future project had a range of benefits for older people who participated in it, including an enhancement of their social connections.


Age UK's Fit for the Future

Project Evaluation report

Age UK’s Cascade Training 
Programme Evaluation report

Age UK’s Dementia Friendly 
Programme Evaluation report

Age UK’s Fit for the Future 
Project ‘Social Prescribing’ 
extension project

Andrea Wigfield with Erika Kispeter and Sarah Alden


The Centre, directed by Dr Andrea Wigfield, brings together over 50 academics and researchers across all five University of Sheffield Facilities, covering 14 Departments and Schools.

The Centre is also supported by an external advisory group of public, voluntary and private sector organisations with an interest in both understanding and tackling loneliness in society.

A group of Experts by Experience (individuals who have been or are affected by loneliness) are to be recruited to guide the Centre’s activities.

University of Sheffield staff:

Name Position / Department Research
Rowland Atkinson USP
Inclusive society
Social inclusion.
Sarah Barnes SCHARR
Senior Lecturer
Quality of life/older people.
Peter Bath Professor and HoD
Information School
Health informatics and working on predictors of loneliness in ELSA data.
Jo Birch Department of landscape
Research Associate
How urban residents from diverse backgrounds narrate their own histories and values of contact and connectedness with nature and health and wellbeing.
Chris Blackmore ScHARR
University Teacher Mental Health Research Unit
Impact of the internet on wellbeing.
Dave Bosworth Sociological Studies Link to South Yorkshire Teaching Partnership.
Diane Burns Management School
Senior Lecturer
Care quality, well-being care staff and care home research.
David Cameron

Information School

Understanding how emotions can shape our behaviour and impact on social relationships.
Lee Crookes Urban Studies and Planning
University Teacher
Housing, health, well-being.
Peter Cudd CATCH Assistive Technology, including robotics.
Nicola Dempsey Department of landscape
Senior Lecturer
How urban and rural landscape planning and management affect everyday life, quality of life and wellbeing.
Andreana M Drencheva Management school Entrepreneurship, including social entrepreneurship.
Joshua Forstenzer Philosophy Participatory democracy, youth politics and civic education.
Alexis Foster SCHARR
NIHR doctoral Research Fellow
Health, well-being, RCTs, and how to evaluate interventions.
Clare Gardiner School of Nursing and Midwifery
VC Fellow
Social isolation in the elderly and interventions to reduce loneliness.
Karim Hadjri School of Architecture
HOD Professor
Architecture, design and well-being.
Sarah Hargreaves ScHARR
Research Associate
Everyday life of ill health and ageing.
Janet Harris SCHARR
Community involvement/participation, realist evaluation, and ealth care.
Annette Haywood SchARR Public health and inequalities, British Red Cross social connectors project.
Dan Holman Sociological Studies
Research Associate
Health inequalities.
Anna Jorgensen Department of Landscape 
Senior Lecturer
Ways in which different people experience, interact with, understand and represent landscape.
Anju Keetharuth SchARR
Research Fellow
Economic evaluation and health policy analysis.
Hui Yang Information school Predictors of loneliness in ELSA data.
Paul Martin Sociological Studies
Abigail Millings Psychology
Attachment theory and use of social robots.
Clara Mukuria ScHARR
Research fellow
Health economics, measurement and value of health and wellbeing, developing a new quality of life instrument that could be used in economic evaluation across health and social care, (extending the QALY) including a measurement on loneliness.
Jan Owens School of Dentistry

People with disabilities, including learning disabilities and involving community in research.

Malcolm G Patterson Management school Examining the impact of organisational practices and policies impact the psycho-social experiences of employees.
Tess Peasgood ScHARR Health economics, measurement and value of health and wellbeing, developing a new quality of life instrument that could be used in economic evaluation across health and social care, (Extending the QALY) including a measurement on loneliness.
Tony Prescott Department of Computer Science
Director of Sheffield Robotics
Professor in Cognitive Robotics
Understanding the psychology of loneliness, the potential benefits/risks of robotic and AI companions, and the ethical issues, artificial companions and in the role of physical contact.
David Robinson Geography
Professor and HoD
Housing, migration.
Georgina Rowse Psychology Both from a mindfulness and wellbeing angle but also from my mental health and long term health conditions work. People with mental and/or physical health difficulties often experience great loneliness.
Tony Ryan School of Nursing and Midwifery
Older people, care and the family.
Sarah Salway Professor
Dept sociological studies
Public health, health inequalities, ethnic minorities and social isolation.
Robin Sen Sociological Studies Children and Families safegaurding.
Fuschia Sirois Psychology
Psychological factors and qualities risk or resilience for physical health and well-being.
Christine Sprigg Management School Loneliness of employed people who are also family carers.
Robert Stern Philosphy
The Ethical Demand: Løgstrup's Ethics and Its Implications', to work on the ethics of the Danish philosopher
Løgstrup takes into account a demand by people that is built into our experience of life with other people: People influence other peoples lives, link to trust.
Brendan Stone School of English
Mental health.
Malcolm Tait Urban Studies and Planning
HoD and Professor
Urban Villages, housing/built environment.
Mark Tomlinson Sociological Studies
Senior Lecturer, Sociology and Social Policy
Measuring social isolation (in relation to poverty) and dimensions of wellbeing.
Anna Topakas Management school Loneliness in the workplace.
Peter Totterdell Psychology Processes through which people influence the moods and emotions of others. Previous work includes daydreaming and loneliness.
Alan Walker Sociological Studies
Older people, ageing.
Tom Webb Psychology
Social Pschologist
How people achieve their goals and make changes to their behaviour.
Scott Weich

Professor of Mental Health
Mental Health Research Unit (HSR)

Distribution, causes and consequences of mental disorders.

Measurement and epidemiology of mental well-being.

Luc de Witte ScHARR Assistive technology, care robotics.
Sue White Sociological Studies
Social Work
Social Work, families and distancing practices in child protection.

 University of Sheffield PhD students:

Name Department Research
Manel Lemmouchi Education Loneliness in the context of Higher Education.
Louise Whitehead Sociological Studies Loneliness and role of co-production in later life, safeguarding and loneliness.
Queyu Ren Management School Loneliness as an outcome of personality and workplace relationships.
Dave Clayton CATCH and Sociological Studies Technology and loneliness in later life.
Winnie Lam Management School Work life balance and informal carers.

External research associates:

John Ratcliffe

John Ratcliffe studied for his bachelor’s degree in Sociology, and master’s degree in Social Research, at the University of Sheffield, and is now conducting doctoral research in the University of York’s Health Sciences department. He also worked in social care for a number of years before returning to academia, and as a Sheffielder, continues to be part of The Centre’s research team despite having left the city itself!

Broadly, he aims to bridge theoretical knowledge to the everyday realities of people, with a particular focus on emotional well-being. His PhD project is an investigation into older men’s propensity to acknowledge and seek help for loneliness, which builds on his master’s dissertation, which was entitled ‘A lonely old man stuck in front of the television: understanding masculinities and loneliness in older men, and its relevance to policy and services’.

He is/has been involved in three research projects at The University of Sheffield:

  • The Integrated Care Programme Pilot: An Interim Report (with Age UK Sheffield, 2016)
  • Safeguarding Children from Fabricated and Induced illness in England: A Review of the Experiences of Local Safeguarding Children (with Kingston Hospital, current)
  • Evaluation of the British Red Cross Community Connectors Programme (with the British Red Cross and Co-operative, current)
Dave Clayton

David Clayton's background is in Social Work, Social Care Commissioning and Project Management. He is a current PhD student in CATCH (Centre for Assistive Technology and Connected Healthcare) at the University of Sheffield, with the Technology for Health Ageing and Well-being (THAW) research scholarships.

See Dave's CATCH profile here.

Katey Twyford

Katey is a research associate for the Centre for Loneliness Studies, University of Sheffield. Katey has just completed a doctorate on the possibilities and practicalities of people with dementia living in extra care housing. The qualitative research involved interview and focus groups with residents, staff and managers of extra care housing schemes which identified and explored the contribution of a well-developed community to preventing loneliness and unwanted isolation. Prior to this Katey worked for over 30 years in social care and health settings including the independent, local authority and health sectors.

Her work has frequently covered issues of working across agencies to provide the best possible support for vulnerable people in need of services. Hearing the voice of current and potential services users has been critical to Katey’s work and research, and has influenced the development and use of different models of co-delivery and co-production. Katey runs a reading and discussion group for people living with dementia and their carers to help prevent loneliness and isolation.

Florence Gaughan

Florence Gaughan, Research Associate at the Centre for Loneliness Studies, University of Sheffield, is a Sociology graduate from the University of Sheffield who has carried out a variety of research using qualitative research methods. She recently worked on a project exploring mothers’ experiences of breastfeeding. This involved one to one interviews with mothers and families. The project was selected to represent the University of Sheffield at the prestigious Posters in Parliament competition. Florence also has experience working within the health sector and volunteering for older peoples support groups and a blind club. She is also involved with a non-profit music and arts organisation in Sheffield. These work and volunteering experiences within community settings have allowed her to develop a passion for supporting people from marginalised and under-represented groups. Florence is anticipating carrying out some research into loneliness among young mothers in the near future.

Royce Turner

Royce Turner is a policy analyst who has led over 40 research projects for UK central government departments, local authorities, various NHS bodies, government agencies such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission, voluntary and community sector organisations, and European Union directorates.

His research agenda has always policy issues that have an impact on people’s lives. He is currently looking at the impact of high-rise living on loneliness and on mental health. Previously, he has examined economic regeneration, evaluating the outcomes of regeneration policies in areas undergoing major economic restructuring, and how companies modernise to meet new challenges. More recently, he examined the impact of skilled labour, and its relationship with cultural and social capital, on the economic competitiveness of localities.

Royce Turner has extensive knowledge of organisational and governmental structures, gained from working in industry at the then British Steel Corporation, in university research centres, and from being a director of an independent research company. This experience is underpinned by his academic studies – he has a BA (Hons) from the University of Sheffield in Politics, and MA (Econ) from the University of Manchester in Public Policy and Administration, and a PhD from the University of Liverpool.

External partners:

South Yorkshire Police

South Yorkshire Police is among the most improving police forces in England and Wales. We are committed to making South Yorkshire a safer place to live in, work in or visit. We pride ourselves in delivering a service with integrity, sensitivity and respect, always putting people first.

Our ambition is to be the best police force in the country as well as being a balanced organisation providing the full range of services to the people of South Yorkshire whilst delivering their priorities.

We recognise that there is always more that we can do to improve. To do this we know we need to invest in the development of our staff and forge strong partnerships with other agencies to make South Yorkshire’s communities safer.


Sheffield Young Carers

Sheffield Young Carers is an independent charity that has existed in Sheffield since 1997. We are dedicated to supporting young carers across the city.

For more information on Sheffield Young Carers then visit their website by clicking the button below:

Sheffield Young Carers

Sheffield Carers Centre

Sheffield Carers Centre is operated by a consortium of local charities committed to supporting carers in the city. The service is for adult carers who are looking after someone who is also an adult (aged 18+).

For more information on Sheffield Carers Centre then visit their website by clicking the button below:

Sheffield Carers Centre

Equal Arts (HenPower)

The HenPower project brings together older people and hen-keeping to combat loneliness and depression and improve wellbeing. Now in more than 40 care homes, HenPower creatively engages older people in arts activities and hen-keeping to promote health and wellbeing and reduce loneliness.


Age UK

Age UK is the country's largest charity dedicated to helping everyone make the most of later life. The over-60s is the fastest-growing group in society and there are more of us than ever before. Ageing is not an illness, but it can be challenging. At Age UK we provide services and support at a national and local level to inspire, enable and support older people. We stand up and speak for all those who have reached later life, and also protect the long-term interests of future generations.

For more information on Age UK then visit their website by clicking the button below:

Age UK

Leeds Older People's Forum

Leeds Older People’s Forum aims to promote the well-being of all older people in the city of Leeds, and to give a more powerful voice to older people in shaping their city for the benefit of all its citizens.

For more information on Leeds Older Peoples' Forum then visit their website by clicking the button below:

Leeds Older Peoples' Forum (LOPF)

PhD study

We are committed to the development of our postgraduate research community, and we provide a range of funding and scholarship opportunities to our PhD students.

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