Loneliness is seen by many as one of the largest health concerns we face. Why? Here are the facts.

Health risks

  • Loneliness is likely to increase your risk of death by 26% (Holt-Lunstad, 2015)
  • Loneliness, living alone and poor social connections are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. (Holt-Lunstad, 2010)
  • Loneliness is worse for you than obesity. (Holt-Lunstad, 2010)
  • Loneliness and social isolation are associated with an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke [1]
  • Loneliness increases the risk of high blood pressure [2]
  • Loneliness with severe depression is associated with early mortality [3] and loneliness is a risk factor for depression in later life [4]
  • Loneliness and social isolation put individuals at greater risk of cognitive decline and dementia [5]

Loneliness and older people

  • The number of over-50s experiencing loneliness is set to reach two million by 2025/6. This compares to around 1.4 million in 2016/7 – a 49% increase in 10 years [6]
  • Half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all [7]
  • Well over half (59%) of those aged 85 and over and 38% of those aged 75 to 84 live alone [8]
  • Two fifths all older people (about 3.9 million) say the television is their main company [9]

Loneliness and people of all ages

  • In total , 45% of adults feel occasionally, sometimes or often lonely in England. This equates to twenty five million people.
  • In 2016 to 2017, there were 5% of adults (aged 16 years and over) in England reporting feeling lonely “often/always” – that’s 1 in 20 adults. Furthermore, 16% of adults reported feeling lonely sometimes and 24% occasionally. [10]
  • Research commissioned by Eden Project initiative The Big Lunch found that disconnected communities could be costing the UK economy £32 billion every year. [11]
  • Characteristics of people who are more likely to experience loneliness include: those who are widowed, those with poorer health and those with long-term illness or disability. 43.45% of the group reporting bad or very bad health are often/always lonely. [4]

Gender and Loneliness

  • According to the ONS, women reported feeling lonely more frequently than men. They were significantly more likely than men to report feeling lonely “often/always”, “some of the time” and “occasionally” and were much less likely than men to say they “never” felt lonely [12]
  • While higher percentages of older women report loneliness compared to men, a greater number of older men (50+) report moderate to high levels of social isolation [13]
  • 14% of older men experienced moderate to high social isolation compared to 11% of women [8]

Loneliness and families

  • A survey by Action for Children found that 43% of 17 – 25 year olds who used their service had experienced problems with loneliness, and that of this same group less than half said they felt loved. [14]
  • Action for Children have also reported 24% of parents surveyed said they were always or often lonely.

Loneliness and disabled people

  • Research by Sense has shown that up to 50% of disabled people will be lonely on any given day. [15]