Using longitudinal studies on loneliness in the UK from the past 70 years, Professor Christina Victor has shown that the percentage of older people experiencing chronic loneliness has remained broadly static since the 1940s; with 6-13% of people over the age of 65 reporting they feel lonely ‘all or most of the time’.[i] (This study is where the commonly used ‘10% of older people are lonely’ statistic is drawn from, taking 10% as an average.)
As our population ages, the amount of older people in the UK grows. We are therefore seeing an increase in the absolute number of people experiencing chronic and severe loneliness. The Office of National Statistics estimated the population in England and Wales aged over 65 in 2001 to be 8,341,000. In the 2011 census, it was estimated that there were 9,223,000 people aged over 67[ii].
Longitudinal studies also show a rise in the number of people aged over 65 who feel lonely ‘sometimes’: Victor suggests that this increase could be as much as from 19% to 38% over the last 6 decades.
[i] Victor C. (2011) ‘Loneliness in old age: the UK Perspective’ Safeguarding the Convoy: a call to action from the Campaign to End Loneliness (Oxford: Age UK Oxfordshire)
[ii] 2011 Census – Population and Household Estimates for England and Wales, March 2011