The University Loneliness Epidemic and How to Fight it

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Loneliness in the UK is at an all-time high, particularly among young people.  Starting university can be a time where you feel particularly alone, in a new city, with new people, away from everything that is comfortingly familiar. Although no recent research has been done, a 2016 Sodexo survey found that 44% of students were concerned about feeling lonely. But don’t fear, there are many ways to tackle loneliness and university is a great place to meet new people and try new things; you’ve just got to take the step to put yourself out there. 

Joining a society is a great way to get involved. Try something new and meet like-minded people. If you have a passion, then there’s a high chance there’s already a related society and if not, it’s a great chance to have a go at something. My biggest regret from first year is definitely not getting involved in enough societies, it’s really scary to put yourself out there sometimes but making the effort to go to class, meeting or ‘give it a go’ could prove to be the best decision you make whilst at university. It can be alienating if you don’t enjoy going out and partying or are someone who doesn’t drink. However, many societies have socials that aren’t based around drinking, such as quizzes and bowling trips. Leeds even has a society completely committed to people who prefer non-alcohol related activities, so there is certainly something for everyone. 

Some people are fortunate enough to click straight away with their flatmates, but don’t worry if this isn’t the case, after all, you’ve not been meticulously matched. Remember, there’s a whole group of people doing the same course as you, and you’ve already got a major thing in common with everyone there which means there are pretty good odds that you’ll have something to talk about. Be brave enough to give new friends a message to meet for coffee or explore new places, they might just be thinking exactly the same thing. This applies to second and third years too, I know people who have met their closest friends after first year, so keep your options open, join new societies, speak to coursemates you’ve not spoken to before. Hopefully, you’re really happy about who you’ve chosen to live with but if that’s not the case, they’ll be lots of other people to spend time with. 

Volunteering is another great way to get out there and socialise. Lots of charity shops around Leeds are constantly looking for volunteers and it’s a way to help others as well as yourself and maybe give back to your new community! The university also offers loads of volunteering opportunities in partnership with Leeds charities, so whatever cause appeals to you, they’ll be sure to welcome a helping hand. It’s also often a great boost to your CV, if you need more incentive. Similarly, getting a part-time jobcould result in meeting new people as well, helping you fund those nights out and takeaways. 

It’s also really important to have a good work/life balance. It’s okay to take a break from studying to catch a coffee with friends or not spend the whole weekend in the library. Your degree is the main reason you’re at university but it’s also about enjoying the social aspect. 

If all of the above options seem a little daunting and it feels like you simply need someone to talk to, then you can always call or instant message Leeds Nightline on 01133801285, who are available from 8pm to 8am. Also remember that if you’re feeling homesick, your family and friends are just a phone call away. Having a quick chat or a facetime can really brighten the mood and remind you that however far away you may be, they’ll always be there if you’re feeling low. 

Asha Hipperson