Loneliness during a strict lockdown: Trajectories and predictors during the COVID-19 pandemic in 38,217 United Kingdom adults

Soc Sci Med. 2020 Nov;265:113521. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.113521. Epub 2020 Nov 12.

Abstract

Rationale: There are increasing worries that lockdowns and 'stay-at-home' orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to a rise in loneliness, which is recognised as a major public health concern. But profiles of loneliness during the pandemic and risk factors remain unclear.

Objective: The current study aimed to examine if and how loneliness levels changed during the strict lockdown and to explore the clustering of loneliness growth trajectories.

Methods: Data from 38,217 UK adults in the UCL COVID -19 Social Study (a panel study collecting data weekly during the pandemic) were analysed during the strict lockdown period in the UK (23/03/2020-10/05/2020). The sample was well-stratified and weighted to population proportions of gender, age, ethnicity, education and geographical location. Growth mixture modelling was used to identify the latent classes of loneliness growth trajectories and their predictors.

Results: Analyses revealed four classes, with the baseline loneliness level ranging from low to high. In the first a few weeks of lockdown, loneliness levels increased in the highest loneliness group, decreased in the lowest loneliness group, and stayed relatively constant in the middle two groups. Younger adults (OR = 2.17-6.81), women (OR = 1.59), people with low income (OR = 1.3), the economically inactive (OR = 1.3-2.04) and people with mental health conditions (OR = 5.32) were more likely to be in highest loneliness class relative to the lowest. Further, living with others or in a rural area, and having more close friends or greater social support were protective.

Conclusions: Perceived levels of loneliness under strict lockdown measures due to COVID-19 were relatively stable in the UK, but for many people these levels were high with no signs of improvement. Results suggest that more efforts are needed to address loneliness.

Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus; Lockdown; Loneliness; Longitudinal; Mental health; Social factor; Trajectory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / psychology*
  • Communicable Disease Control / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Loneliness / psychology*
  • Male
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Residence Characteristics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Young Adult