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Challenging the issues of loneliness

Most people will feel lonely at some point in their lives. It’s a deeply personal experience that in most cases will thankfully pass, but for a growing number of people, particularly those in later life, loneliness can define their lives and have a significant impact on their wellbeing.

What causes loneliness?

We often feel lonely when we feel we don't have strong social relationships or are unhappy with the ones we have.

There have been several studies that have identified a range of factors associated with being lonely in older age. These factors include:

  • social networks (living alone, being widowed or divorced, a lack of contact with friends and family and limited opportunities to participate in social occasions)
  • health (poor health, limited mobility, social care needs or cognitive and sensory impairment)
  • individual characteristics (age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, low income, retirement)
  • neighbourhood characteristics (structures of buildings and streets, provision of local amenities, territorial boundaries, area reputation, neighbourliness, material deprivation of area of residence).

Loneliness is associated with depression, sleep problems, impaired cognitive health, heightened vascular resistance, hypertension, psychological stress and mental health problems.

Loneliness: in figures


... older people have not had a conversation with friends or family for a month.

3.9 million

... older people agree the television is their main form of company.

15 cigarettes

Loneliness can be as harmful for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.


Your stories

92-year-old Len got in touch with his local Age UK to enquire about their befriending services and is now visited by volunteer befriender Ivor.

In this video, Len and Ivor talk about their growing friendship, and how Age UK's befriending service has made a difference.

They spend an hour each week chatting about a range of topics that interest them, and have developed a strong friendship.

More stories like this

How Age UK helps

To tackle the problem of loneliness among older people, Age UK runs local services, campaigns for more support from Government and connects older people groups.

All of our local Age UKs provide services to combat loneliness in later life

Loneliness in the news