Today we share our latest report, ‘Everyday technology fighting loneliness‘ which shows that people felt less lonely after receiving a radio, television, or tablet. Using survey data collected from over 180 people over 2 years, the research undertaken by the University of York shows that individuals rated their own health more positively after receiving and using their new piece of technology. Study participants were on average 44 years old. Over 50% had been homeless and experienced poor mental health.
Accelerated by the often-negative and insensitive discussion of technology, this new report broadens our understanding of this, as yet, little-researched area. The report, by Professor Martin Webber, Director of York’s International Centre for Mental Health Social Research, shows that technology can have a positive influence on the life of someone who is lonely. The benefits are increased for people who are in a bad financial situation, experience poor physical and mental health, and are therefore at the greatest risk of suffering from loneliness. Crucially, the extent of people’s loneliness did not vary by gender, region, or age.
This research, funded by the ERSC Impact Acceleration Grant, builds on an earlier study of interviews with a cross-section of WaveLength’s beneficiaries. Having access to technology alleviated loneliness and other associated negative emotions, while also facilitating social connections. Technology provided practical benefits, such as links to new hobbies and employment opportunities.
As one of the oldest loneliness charities, it was vital for us to evaluate the impact of our work, especially in light of the debates over technology. Our latest report shows that everyday media technology has a real role to play in helping people to feel less lonely. The research shows a statistically significant relationship between technology usage, a reduction in loneliness, and an increase in self-rated health. The results of this study should lead to a greater recognition of the valuable role technology can play in fighting loneliness, alongside other forms of support.WaveLength CEO Tim Leech
Our report calls for more attention to be given to the benefits everyday technology can bring to some of the loneliest people. Not everyone can afford to buy the everyday technology which many of us take for granted. It is just as important for funding to cover the purchase of equipment, alongside training. Our report also urges for free access to a minimum standard of broadband in order to connect greater numbers of people via smart televisions and tablet computers. More detailed findings from the study will be published in due course.
The people we help
Clare, who is living in Kilburn, recently received a television from WaveLength after she left prison. Experiencing several health issues and disabilities means that she is now often housebound. Commenting on the difference her television has made, she explained:
I have found the TV to be invaluable as it is a real companion to me when I am bedbound and stops me from feeling lonely. I really enjoy tuning into my favourite programmes for entertainment and learning. The TV has made such a positive difference to my life.
We also helped the Home for Social Good Club, run by homeless charity The Passage. The club helps those who were homeless to transition to independent living. Using the tablets as part of the club, one client said:
When I first came to the Home for Good Club, I was living like a hermit. I hardly spoke to anyone. Conor gave me a tablet to use and this gave me access back to the “real world” and the opportunity to talk to and make friends. Without the tablet I would have probably still be suffering from severe depression.
Everyday technology fighting loneliness, 2019
Since 1939, WaveLength has provided media technology to people who are lonely and can’t afford to buy the equipment themselves. Initially giving wirelesses, the charity now gives radios, tablets, and televisions. Alongside supporting on an individual basis, the charity works with organisations including women’s refuges, homeless hostels, day-care centres, hospital wards, and care homes. In 2018 alone, the charity helped over 12,700 people.
Apply for Help
To apply for a piece of technology, please visit the Apply for Help section of our website to download an application form. To qualify for our help, people must be referred by a third party, known as a referrer. This can be a friend or neighbour, social worker, care worker, medical worker, housing officer, charity worker, volunteer, a member of a religious or community organisation. We also partner with organisations that help lonely people living in poverty.