A longitudinal analysis of loneliness among older people in Great Britain

J Psychol. May-Jun 2012;146(3):313-31. doi: 10.1080/00223980.2011.609572.


Longitudinal studies of loneliness among older people are comparatively rare. At 8 years after the initial survey in 1999-2000, we followed up on the 999 people aged 65+ years who were living in the community in the United Kingdom. We found that 583 participants were still alive, and 287 (58%) participated in the follow-up survey. The overall prevalence of loneliness at both time points was very similar, with 9% reporting severe loneliness; 30% reporting that they were sometimes lonely, and 61% reporting that they were never lonely. We developed a 12-category typology to describe changes in loneliness across the follow-up period and report that 60% of participants had a stable loneliness rating, with 40-50% rating themselves as never lonely, and 20-25% rating themselves as persistently lonely; 25% demonstrated decreased loneliness, and approximately 15% demonstrated worse loneliness. Changes in loneliness were linked with changes in marital status, living arrangements, social networks, and physical health. Importantly improvements in physical health and improved social relationships were linked to reduced levels of loneliness. This result suggests that strategies to combat loneliness are not confined to the arena of social interventions such as befriending services, which aim to build and support social embeddedness, but may also result from the treatment of chronic and long-term health conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Loneliness / psychology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Single Person / psychology
  • United Kingdom