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Loneliness in numbers

The facts and statistics

Loneliness is a part of life and something that most of us experience at some point. But when loneliness is severe or lasts a long time, it can have a negative impact on our health and well-being.

Recent studies suggest that long-term loneliness is one of the largest health concerns we face. It is as harmful as obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Feeling lonely can lead to depression, anxiety, disrupted sleep and stress. It can also be a factor in heart disease, increased blood pressure and degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Long-term loneliness has serious health implications​

  • Loneliness is likely to increase your risk of death by 26%. [1]​​

 

  • Loneliness is worse for you than obesity. [2]

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  • Loneliness is a risk factor for depression in later life. [3]

 

  • Loneliness and social isolation put individuals at greater risk of cognitive decline and dementia. [4]

  • Loneliness and social isolation have been linked to a 30% increase in the risk of having a stroke or coronary artery disease. [5] 

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Loneliness affects people of all ages​

  • 16-29-year-olds are twice as likely as those over 70 to experience loneliness. [6]

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  • 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. [3]

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  • In total, 45% of adults feel occasionally, sometimes, or often lonely in England. This equates to twenty-five million people. [7] 

  • Disconnected communities could be costing the UK economy £32 billion every year. [8]

  • 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. [9]

  • Half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all. [10]

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  • Two-fifths of all older people (about 3.9 million) say the television is their main company. [11]

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References

[1] Holt-Lunstad, 2015. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25910392/

[2] Holt-Lunstad, 2010.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20668659/

[3] Courtin, E., & Knapp, M. (2017). Social isolation, loneliness and health in old age: a scoping review. Health & social care in the community, 25(3), 799-812

[4] Cacioppo, J.T. and Cacioppo, S., 2014. Older adults reporting social isolation or loneliness show poorer cognitive function 4 years later. Evidence-based nursing, 17(2), pp.59-60.

[5] https://heart.bmj.com/content/102/13/1009 

[6] (Community Life Survey 2019-20) https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/community-life-survey-201920 

[7] https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/the-facts-on-loneliness/ 

[8] Research commissioned by Eden Project initiative The Big Lunch - https://www.edenprojectcommunities.com/the-cost-of-disconnected-communities 

[9] Age UK 2018, All The Lonely People

https://www.ageuk.org.uk/globalassets/age-uk/documents/reports-and-publications/reports-and-briefings/loneliness/loneliness-report_final_2409.pdf

[10] Age UK 2016, No-one should have no one

https://www.ageuk.org.uk/Documents/EN-GB/No-one_Should_Have_No-one_Working_to_end_loneliness.pdf?dtrk=true

[11] Age, U.K., 2014. Evidence Review: Loneliness in Later Life. London: Age UK

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