New analysis of Office for National Statistics data shows that the number of people who are chronically lonely has risen to 3.83 million – half a million more than in the first year of the pandemic when 3.24 million people were chronically lonely. 7.1% of the population now say that they are always or often lonely, in the first year of the pandemic this figure was 6.0%.
The figures are published in the new Campaign to End Loneliness publication The State of Loneliness 2023: ONS data on loneliness in Britain.
Key findings are:
- People under 30 are the most lonely age group – 16-29 year olds are twice as likely to be chronically lonely than over 70s
- Women are significantly more likely to be chronically lonely than men. 6.33% of men are chronically lonely while 7.67% of women are chronically lonely. Other surveys before the pandemic generally found that men and women had similar levels of loneliness.
- People who had a physical or mental health diagnosis are over three times more likely to be lonely. 11.17% in this sample are chronically lonely compared to 3.25% of people without a diagnosis.
The Campaign to End Loneliness worked with Dr Heather McClelland of the University of Glasgow to analyse the figures. Robin Hewings, Programme Director at the Campaign said:
“Loneliness continued to rise after the pandemic. For some of us, life went back to normal after the pandemic but for others it has not. Reasons for this include a loss of social confidence, increased poor health and high inflation making it difficult for people to afford to socialise. Indeed, severe financial worries make people feel very alone.”
“Although younger people are at higher risk of loneliness, there are some older people who are severely affected by loneliness, particularly if they have been bereaved, are disabled or are frail.”
Youth loneliness will be one of the focuses for the Campaign to End Loneliness over 2023-2024, with events planned as part of our Research and Policy Forum. You can keep up to date on our latest events by subscribing to our newsletter.
About the data
The Campaign analyses the ONS data to monitor levels of loneliness in the UK and to inform its work. Analysis of data was carried out by Dr Heather McClelland, consultant researcher to the Campaign to End Loneliness.
Dr McLelland analysed Office for National Statistics data on loneliness from their Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OLS) between March 2020 and January 2023. Analysis was carried out in May and June 2023 using data from ONS Opinions and Lifestyle Survey for December 2022-February 2023 using a representative sample of people aged 16 and over in Great Britain.
We are grateful to ONS for giving access to raw OLS data which includes approximately 2010 participants each month and 24,120 data points per year. This means we can get more precise figures than in our previous analyses for the numbers and percentages of people who are chronically lonely in various groups, based on age, gender, ethnicity, health and geography.
Appendix: Data to accompany Campaign to End Loneliness The State of Loneliness 2023: ONS data on loneliness in Britain
The Campaign to End Loneliness worked with Dr Heather McClelland of the University of Glasgow to analyse Office for National Statistics data on loneliness from their Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OLS) between March 2020 and January 2023. Our findings use responses to the question ‘How often do you feel lonely?’, specifically to numbers who answered ‘often or always’ to this question. Analyses were undertaken to show overall prevalence of loneliness and variation by age, gender, ethnicity and health.
This appendix includes Tables with full analysis figures which include means, 95% confidence intervals and, where relevant, prevalence in the UK adult (16+) population. Please refer to notes attached to each table.