Building stronger, more connected rural communities

Rural landscape scene in Skipton, North Yorkshire

Victoria Russell, Project Manager at charity Community First Yorkshire, shares her thoughts on rural loneliness and different approaches that can make a difference to people’s feelings of connectedness and improve mental health.

Rural landscape in Skipton, North Yorkshire

Loneliness levels across Yorkshire

It is estimated that 39% (approximately 198,000 people) in North Yorkshire feel lonely often or some of the time, with approximately 6% of the county’s residents aged 16 or over (around 30,000 people) experiencing chronic loneliness. [1]

Community First Yorkshire is the Rural Community Council for North, West and South Yorkshire, and our aim is to empower and strengthen communities to be inclusive, proactive and resilient. Working with rural communities has highlighted the negative effect loneliness can have on physical as well as mental health and how reducing loneliness can improve longevity.

Tapping into a flowing community spirit

Though rural communities can often have community spirit in abundance, access to opportunities and facilities to make connections can be hampered by multiple factors. Structural factors, such as the lack of access to community activities, spaces, transport and services, can contribute to people’s feelings of social isolation and disconnectedness.

We know that helping people build meaningful connections is important and there are lots of opportunities out there but the services and activities taking place are reliant on the hard work, dedication and enthusiasm of individuals and volunteers.

Feeling valued and part of the community

Although loneliness is an issue seen across all generations, it was recently highlighted in our Age Friendly Network survey (undertaken in 2023). The findings revealed that only 53% of people aged 50 or above in North Yorkshire reported feeling valued as a member of their local community. Some of the barriers highlighted include a reduction in local services, an over-reliance on only sharing information digitally and ensuring opportunities are open for people of all ages.

A framework for addressing rural loneliness

In 2021 we launched The Loneliness Campaign North Yorkshire, which highlighted aspects of loneliness specific to the county and presented a framework of action to address loneliness. These included using an asset-based approach, creating realistic action places with communities, learning from best practice, and ensuring delivery is collaborative and system-wide. In a nut shell, it highlighted the importance of reducing loneliness and tackling isolation in rural communities one conversation at a time.

We hope this will help to reduce the stigma associated with loneliness that can prevent people from seeking support, and enhance our friendly, kind and caring communities that play such an integral role in tackling loneliness.

If you want to find out more about the Loneliness Campaign North Yorkshire, or if you want to find out more about making connections with rural communities, please get in touch with Victoria Russell via the Hub or email

[1] Extrapolated national data sourced from the 2017/18 Community Life Survey


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