By Ben Bloch, 4th year French and Spanish and Isaac Haigh, Investigations Correspondent
According to the University of Bristol’s 2019 Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey, 22 per cent of students ‘often’ or ‘always’ feel lonely. This is nearly three times higher than the national average.
With the addition of the ‘some of the time’ responses, the number of students feeling lonely or isolated almost triples to 57 per cent.
This figure compares to a UK wide study, which showed that 8 per cent of 18 to 24 year old’s surveyed felt similar levels of loneliness. These statistics come following a complete overhaul of the institution’s wellbeing strategy for the start of the 2018/19 academic year, as a ‘Whole Institution Approach’.
In a recent interview with Epigram, Mark Ames, Director of Student Services, recognised the issue of social isolation at the University. He said that feeling lonely was 'quite high' amongst Bristol students but that the University were unable to compare the figure with other groups of students as there is not a national data set.
The Director of Student Services also stressed that 'community building' is an important focus point for the year.
The survey was conducted throughout May 2019, and all current university students at all levels were asked to participate in order to inform the institution’s mental health strategy going forward.
This was an issue highlighted following the 2018 Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey, where 24per cent of respondents stated that they ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ felt close other people. In the most recent survey, this figure has increased to 26per cent. The survey analysis gave no recommendations as to how the University could reach out to students experiencing isolation and even wrote that ‘there are no dramatic headlines in this survey analysis’.
However, it was acknowledged that many of the figures remained ‘troublingly high’, including that ‘almost half of students have high levels of depression or anxiety symptoms’.
A university spokesperson said ‘For many students, coming to university can be a really fun and sociable experience, but we acknowledge that for some, it can be lonely and isolating, especially in the first weeks of arrival.’
‘In halls and residences, our Residential Life Team work hard to create a sense of community, organising social events and activities designed to bring people together.’
‘Our residential life and wellbeing advisors are trained to recognise signs of loneliness and regularly check on students to make sure they’re OK.’
‘In partnership with Bristol Students’ Union we have introduced a number of new initiatives, most notably the five SU Bristol Living Rooms across campus which provide an open, sociable space for all students. More than 700 students visit the living room in Senate House every day and feedback has been universally positive.’
‘We also work in close partnership with the SU, Sports Exercise and Health and academic colleagues to provide a range of activities, clubs and societies deigned to help people make friends and feel part of a community.’
‘Loneliness can be detrimental to physical and mental health and we would encourage anyone who is feeling lonely to talk to their residential life or wellbeing advisors who are here to help.’
Epigram are looking for students and staff to talk about their experiences with loneliness and finding social groups on campus. If you would like to get involved, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured Image: Unsplash/ Sasha Freemind
Have you experienced loneliness whilst at University?