Measuring the subjective experience of loneliness can be complicated, unlike the objective state of social isolation. Direct questions, such as ‘do you feel lonely?’ can lead to an under-representation in the data set as some respondents may not wish to admit to experiencing loneliness. Negatively worded statements such as ‘I often feel rejected’ may also cause some respondents to misrepresent their loneliness.
The Campaign to End Loneliness has produced new guidance on measuring loneliness, and measuring your service’s impact on service-users’ levels of loneliness. This guidance introduces three scales and the ways in which you can use them. These scales have been tried and tested in academic studies. The scales in our guidance are:
- The Campaign to End Loneliness Measurement tool
- The De-Jong Giervald 6-Item Loneliness Scale
- The UCLA 3-Item Loneliness Scale
- Single-Item questions
Through extensive research and consultation, we developed our own scale, which you can read about in our measurement guidance. We have kept the questions of the scale positively worded and they do not make explicit mention of loneliness, so as to be as inclusive and widely useful as possible. Our scale is based on the conceptualisation of loneliness as a subjective state, taking place when there is a mismatch between the social contact we have, and the social contact we want.
The statements that make up our scale are:
1. I am content with my friendships and relationships
2. I have enough people I feel comfortable asking for help at any time
3. My relationships are as satisfying as I would want them to be
All scales presented and explained in our guidance ask different questions, but produce similarly accurate results. Each scale has its own scoring and interpretation system to use alongside the questions or statements for respondents. In our guidance, we clearly explain how to use each scale effectively.
Different scales may be more or less appropriate in different settings. For example, one organisation that has used our guidance has used the Campaign’s loneliness measurement scale to measure its impact across its services in the community, and has used the UCLA loneliness measurement scale to measure loneliness in its residential care homes. This was based on the type of questions they needed to ask, and the predicted responses of service users they knew well.