What is it about?

The global population is rapidly aging, making it crucial to encourage older individuals to age in their own homes. A strong community nursing service can impact all dimensions of an ageing population, such as physical, psychological, emotional, social, and community. The average percentage of the population aged 65 years and over is considerably lower for cities than other types of local authority, making community nursing key to supporting older adults. Chronic loneliness is a growing problem faced by the ageing population, with approximately 1.4 million older adults in the UK being lonely, and 1.9 million stating they often feel ignored and invisible in their day-to-day life. Adults aged 65 years and over are a population group particularly vulnerable to both loneliness and social isolation. Research has shown that loneliness increases the risk of death, heart disease, stroke, and many other illnesses. Loneliness and social isolation are interconnected, with a person's perceived quality of connections being linked to the extent of loneliness they experience. Loneliness is a personal and subjective feeling caused by the absence of social interaction and closeness, and it is recognized as a negative emotion associated with a gap in the need for social relationships. Statistics show that individuals aged 50 years or older are more likely to experience loneliness if they don't have someone with whom to confide, are widowed, have bad health, can't accomplish their goals, feel as though they don't belong in their community, or live alone. Living alone, being lonely, and being socially isolated have all been linked to a higher risk of dying young, dementia, and cardiovascular disease. The Campaign to End Loneliness (2015) reports that three out of every four general practitioners (GPs) in the UK see one to five patients a day who have come in primarily because they are lonely.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

Loneliness has significant physical and psychological impacts on individuals, including an increased risk of malnutrition, stroke, coronary heart disease, and mortality. Studies have found that loneliness and social isolation are independently related to these health issues. A study by Boulos et al. (2016) found that loneliness and social isolation were linked to an increased risk of malnutrition, while a meta-analysis by Valtorta et al. (2016) found that poor social relationships were linked to a higher risk of both heart disease and stroke. Loneliness also has a psychological impact, with depression and cognitive decline being closely associated with loneliness. A literature review of 52 papers from various countries identified loneliness and social isolation as significant triggers of suicide in older adults. The UK Government has set a strategy for managing loneliness, which includes building more connections in society, increasing support in multiple areas, and consistently measuring loneliness and effective interventions. Loneliness also impacts healthcare utilization, with reduced social interaction leading to an increased risk of admissions and unplanned hospitalization. Delayed discharges and increased costs can result from loneliness. Zhao et al (2018) used a moderated mediation model to examine the association between depression symptoms and loneliness among senior citizens residing in assisted living facilities. Dahlberg and McKee (2014) highlighted the importance of distinguishing between social and emotional elements of loneliness before developing successful intervention policies and tactics. Singh et al. (2016) showed that patients in solitary rooms had higher levels of loneliness compared to those admitted in multi-bed wards. The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) loneliness scale is used to measure loneliness, but it uses only negative wording, which can cause respondent bias and healthcare professionals difficulty approaching sensitive topics.


It was a very enjoyable article to right and it change my mentality about the impact of loneliness in older adult's care.

Mr Tiago Manuel Horta Reis da Silva
King's College London

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Loneliness in older adults, British Journal of Community Nursing, February 2024, Mark Allen Group,
DOI: 10.12968/bjcn.2024.29.2.60.
You can read the full text:



The following have contributed to this page