Long Reads

Feeling lonely: 8 of the most comforting podcasts to help you feel less alone

Loneliness affects us all, with over nine million of us saying we feel lonely. Whether you need some company in the middle of the night, or to know you’re not alone in grief, you can find a comforting podcast here.

It’s been said that we’re living in a “loneliness epidemic”, with feelings of being alone affecting us all.

The average Brit feels lonely for two days a week, according to new research from digital radio brand Pure, with almost one quarter of us (23%) sometimes going days without speaking to anyone.

Plus, over nine million of us say we often or always feel lonely, according to the British Red Cross, with two thirds of us frequently feeling completely alone even when they’re surrounded by other people.

You may also like

Feel lonely? There are 4 types of loneliness. Here’s how to beat them

Podcasts might not compare to a friend or a therapist, but listening to strangers talk openly about their feelings, thoughts and experiences that you can relate to can help alleviate loneliness.

podcasts loneliness
Feeling lonely? Subscribing to a relatable podcast about IVF, insomnia, grief or disconnection can help you feel heard.

The number of podcast listeners in the UK now stands at roughly seven million, Ofcom say, with half of those jumping on the bandwagon in the last two years.

Many of these people are turning to podcasts for entertainment and light relief; others are in search of connection, support and understanding. Hearing your own experience spoken back at you by another who can empathise is a hugely helpful form of healing. That realisation that someone else “gets it”, has been there, is surviving and maybe even thriving, can be a lifeline.

Need reminding that you’re not the only one feeling alone? Hopefully, you’ll find a trusty podcast companion here.

  • Griefcast

    The clue’s in the name: it’s a podcast about grief. But with comedians, so it’s less depressing than it sounds.

    For all its laugh out loud moments of black humour (and there are many), Griefcast is unapologetically, unflinchingly raw. In a society that refuses to confront the pain of grief, or indeed the reality of our mortality, Griefcast is a lifeline for those of us without the luxury of ignorance.

    Host Cariad Lloyd, a comedian herself, was just 15 when her dad died from pancreatic cancer. She knows how it feels to be marooned on the alien planet ‘Grief’, which is why she closes every episode with four words every bereaved person needs to hear: “You are not alone”. 

  • You, Me and the Big C

    BBC 5 Live presenter Rachael Bland’s answer to why she started a podcast about cancer was simple: “Because when you talk about it, you normalise it”.

    Rachael died from breast cancer last September but her inimitable co-hosts, Deborah James (aka Bowel Babe) and Lauren Mahon (aka Girl Vs Cancer), are sailing their award-winning ship onwards, as per their friend’s request. Rachael’s husband Steve Bland has joined them, sharing his perspective on grief and life as a single dad to four-year-old Freddie.

    Whether you have cancer, love somebody who does, or are looking for an insight into what life with this cruel disease is really like, give You, Me and the Big C a spin. It’s the club that nobody wants to join, but it will welcome you with open arms, hand you a glass of Champagne and rant, cry, laugh and dance along with you, every step of the way. 

  • The Poetry Exchange

    Poetry that encapsulates what it means to be human can be a lifeline, especially when, for whatever reason, we’re struggling to connect with those in our social circle. The Poetry Exchange invites ordinary people, and the odd high-profile guest, to talk about the poem that has been a friend to them. In return, they are gifted a bespoke recording of their chosen poem, inspired by the thoughts and feelings they have shared about it.

    Each episode is 20-minutes long, so perfect if you’re short on time but need a little pick-me-up. Previously discussed poems have included “Love” by George Herbert (chosen by Fleabag’s Hot Priestship Andrew Scott, no less), “The Guest House” by Rumi and “Prayer” by Carol Ann Duffy.

You may also like

Best self care podcasts to listen to when you’re feeling stressed and anxious

  • How To Fail With Elizabeth Day

    Elizabeth Day’s famous guests (Jess Phillips, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Dame Kelly Holmes among them) may be looking back on failure from the dizzy heights of public achievement, but there’s still something reassuring about hearing how, just like us, life hasn’t always gone their way. 

    Each episode, Elizabeth gently explores how her interviewee’s failures – some light, others much heavier – have shaped both themselves and their subsequent success.

    If you’re already a fan of How To Fail, you’ll be as excited as we were to learn that BBC Radio 5 Live presenters Elis James and John Robins have just launched a new podcast called How Do You Cope?, in which they ask household names about the hurdles they have faced in their lives. Their first guest is This Is Going To Hurt author, comedian and ex-NHS doctor, Adam Kay. Listen here.

  • Hooked: The Unexpected Addicts

    Primary school teachers and mental health nurses aren’t the kinds of people who end up in rehab. Or are they? New BBC podcast, Hooked, follows “two women of substance”, Melissa Rice and Jade Wye, as they go to war with stereotypes in a bid to show that anyone can be a drug addict or an alcoholic – and recover. Richard Bacon (he who got sacked from Blue Peter for cocaine use in the 90s) was their first celebrity guest and they’re speaking to a host of psychological experts, too.

    “I can’t advise, suggest or diagnose. I thought knitting would keep me from drinking, so clearly I’m not qualified,” says Melissa, 31. “I’m simply a person who spectacularly swan-dived from ‘grace’ and hit every shameful branch along the way. Someone willing to talk about recovery without clichés and self-indulgent waffle.”

    Melissa and Jade are on a mission to inspire anybody concerned about addictive behaviour to seek help. If that’s you, or somebody you care about, this pod makes for supportive – and maybe even life-saving – listening. 

  • Big Fat Negative

    IVF is a grueling process physically and emotionally, yet still the exhausting trials of trying for a baby you really want, and might not be able to have, are largely hidden behind closed doors. Co-hosted by journalist pals Emma and Gabby, Big Fat Negative throws those doors open, covering everything from early menopause and miscarriage, to egg collection and adoption.

    Kat Brown, a writer and a former guest on the podcast, told us that it’s one of few to “really acknowledge and own the frustration and misery” of the “absolutely rubbish” IVF process.

    “The hosts are honest, sympathetic, and thoughtful,” she says. “Their guests run the gamut of the infertility experience, so you have episodes from almost every cultural and parenting perspective, which helps hammer home the fact that it isn’t only you having a tough time trying to get pregnant.”

    One in six UK couples experience fertility problems. That’s a lot of people in need of this podcast.

You may also like

Suicide prevention: “What volunteering for a suicide helpline taught me about loneliness”

  • Sleep With Me

    Insomniacs, unite. This podcast isn’t here to entertain; it’s here to send you to sleep. Creator Drew ‘Scooter’ Ackerman, himself an insomniac, tells weird stories – “the good type of weird” – that are rambling enough to distract anxious listeners from their racing thoughts, and help them nod off.

    Drew doesn’t claim to be a psychologist or sleep science expert, but he’s racked up over 70 million downloads across 650 episodes, so he must be doing something right. Indeed, a huge online community has been built around Sleep With Me, with many insomniacs taking comfort in the knowledge that they aren’t the only ones tossing and turning.

    “I listen to it religiously to get to sleep every night,” says insomniac Taylor Heyman. “It’s reassuring to know there’s a crowd of other insomniacs listening too.”

  • On Our Plates

    Sometimes the best antidote to feeling alone is something so relatable and funny it makes you belly laugh (and, ahem, splurt your drink all over yourself). Newish comedy podcast On Our Plates does that, and then some, serving up wry observational commentary that’s sure to have 20-somethings smiling in recognition.

    “We love the idea of people feeling like they’re having a chat with their pals when listening, no matter where they’re at in life,” say hosts Laura Scott and Sonia Aguado.

    They cover everything from getting over a break-up and quarter-life crises, to body image, breadcrumbing and the hilarity of reading your teenage diaries. Think The High Low only, dare we say it, funnier.

Don’t miss out: sign up to the Stylist Daily email for a curated edit of brilliant content every day

This piece was originally published in November 2019

Images: Getty, Unsplash