Help us improve our website and give us some feedback via our website survey.

Loneliness and involuntary social isolation

‘Loneliness is a subjective, negative feeling experienced where there is a discrepancy between the amount and quality of social contacts one has, and the amount and quality one would like to have. It is related to, but distinct from, social isolation which is an objective state where there is an absence of social contacts and social connectedness’.[1]

Living alone has been found to be a risk factor associated with loneliness and involuntary social isolation, as well as multiple falls, functional impairment, poor diet, smoking, and three self-reported chronic conditions; arthritis and/or rheumatism, glaucoma, and cataracts.[2]  Loneliness is caused by a number of intrinsic and extrinsic factors.  While loneliness can occur at any age, it can be exacerbated by major life events that typically correspond with ageing such as bereavement, loss of mobility and declining physical health.

The 2012 Herefordshire Quality of Life Survey found that, while most people (60 per cent) had contact with family, friends or neighbours most days of the week, for one in twenty the contact is once a month or less and a similar proportion (five per cent) felt lonely most or all the time (regardless of age or where they lived in the county).  Those who live alone are most likely to experience this kind of isolation; according to the 2011 Census 28 per cent of county households comprise one person – half of whom are over 65. The highest proportions of lone pensioner households are found in Hereford and the market towns.

Estimates produced by The Institute of Public Care suggest that in 2017 there were 16,600 older people living alone in Herefordshire, with a greater proportion (67 per cent) being female.  It is predicted that the number of older people living alone in Herefordshire will increase by 47 per cent to an estimated 24,300 people by 2035.[3] 

Number* of people aged 65 and over predicted to live alone in Herefordshire by gender, 2017-2035

                       

Source:  The Institute of Public Care, 2017. *Numbers in figure may not total due to rounding.

As well as elderly people living alone, informal carers are more likely to experience loneliness and social isolation than the general population.

Factors which can precipitate loneliness

 

Source: https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/wp-content/uploads/CEL-Hidden-People-Exec-Summary-final.pdf

The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) asked participants about their feelings regarding social interactions and feeling lonely.[4]  ELSA data revealed that the percentage of people who feel lonely ‘some of the time’ or ‘often’ increases among those aged 60 and over.  23 per cent of participants between 60 and 69 years of age said they sometimes felt lonely and six per cent said they often felt lonely. When those over 80 years of age were asked the same question 29 per cent of people reported feeling lonely some of the time and 17 per cent often felt lonely.

Proportion of people aged 60 and over who feel lonely ‘some of the time’ or ‘often’

 

Source: English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, Wave 5, 2009–10

Emerging evidence indicates that loneliness is associated with poor health and wellbeing outcomes including hypertension[5], coronary heart disease[6], stroke[7], depression[8] and mortality.[9]

We are not responsible for the content or reliability of the linked websites. References or listings should not be taken as endorsement by Herefordshire Council of any kind. We cannot guarantee that these links will work all of the time and we have no control over the availability of linked pages.


[1] ‘Hidden Citizens: how can we identify the most lonely older adults?’, Campaign to end loneliness.  Available at: https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/hidden-citizens/

[2] Overadjustment bias and unnecessary adjustment in epidemiologic studies, Schisterman, E.F., Cole, S.R., Platt, R.W., Epidemiology, Vo.20, No.4 (July 2009), p.488.  Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2744485/

[3] Projecting Older People Population Information (POPPI) Available at: http://www.poppi.org.uk/index.php?pageNo=338&PHPSESSID=bom9f45gr9jg57kot94fsfism2&sc=1&loc=8306&np=1

[4]The dynamics of ageing: Evidence from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing 2002-10 (Wave 5), Banks, J., Nazroo, J. and Steptoe, A.,2012. Available at: http://www.elsa-project.ac.uk/publicationDetails/id/6367

[5] Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke: systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal observational studies, Valtorta, N.K., Kanaan, M., Gilbody, S., Ronzi, S., Hanratty, B., Heart, Vol.102, No.13 (July 2016), pp.1009-1016.  Available at: http://heart.bmj.com/content/102/13/1009.inf

[6] Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke: systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal observational studies, Valtorta, N.K., Kanaan, M., Gilbody, S., Ronzi, S., Hanratty, B., Heart, Vol.102, No.13 (July 2016), pp.1009-1016.  Available at: http://heart.bmj.com/content/102/13/1009.inf

[7] Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke: systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal observational studies, Valtorta, N.K., Kanaan, M., Gilbody, S., Ronzi, S., Hanratty, B., Heart, Vol.102, No.13 (July 2016), pp.1009-1016.  Available at: http://heart.bmj.com/content/102/13/1009.inf

[8] An overview of systematic reviews on the public health consequences of social isolation and loneliness, Leigh-Hunt N, Bagguley D, Bash K, Turner V, Turnbull S, Valtorta N, Caan W., Public health, No..152 (November 2017), pp.157-171. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0033350617302731

[9] Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: a meta-analytic review, Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Baker M, Harris T, Stephenson D., Perspectives on Psychological Science, Vol.10, No.2 (March 2015), pp.227-237. Available at: http://www.ahsw.org.uk/userfiles/Research/Perspectives%20on%20Psychological%20Science-2015-Holt-Lunstad-227-37.pdf

 


 

Last updated: Thursday, August 23, 2018