Those aged between 16-29 are over two times as likely to report feeling lonely often or always than those over 70 (9.7% versus 3.7%), with those aged between 30-49 close behind at 8.2%, according to new analysis of the latest ONS data. 

This comes as overall levels of chronic levels of loneliness, where people feel lonely often or always, continue to be at higher levels since they grew during the pandemic. 

An average of 7.08% of people reported feeling lonely often/always from November 2022 to February 2023. This equates to an estimated 3.7 million people. 

This represents a continuation of higher levels of loneliness than those reported by the ONS pre-pandemic in 2018 (5%). At the peak of lockdown in 2021 levels rose to 7.2%, but the level has remained at a high level since, with the last quarter in 2022 also at 7.08%.

Confidence intervals for this period were also wide, which indicate the true figure could be between 3.1m and 4.4m over the period, as people surveyed may have moved in and out of severe loneliness over the period. 

The Campaign to End Loneliness analysed the ONS figures. Robin Hewings, Programme Director at the Campaign said:

“Younger generations are expressing high or chronic levels of loneliness which demonstrates the importance of understanding why this happens, how it can be prevented, and how it can be intervened effectively. 

“Since the peak of the pandemic, chronic levels of loneliness have not returned back to levels we saw before lockdown. While this could, in part, be down to loneliness becoming a more accepted and talked about issue that can impact any of us at any stage of life, it’s clear that there are millions of people experiencing the severest form of loneliness, which we must continue to address.

“Although younger people are at higher risk of loneliness, there are pockets of older people who are severely affected by loneliness, particularly if they have been bereaved, are disabled or are particularly 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

The latest stats

  • From November 2022 to February 2023 the two younger age groups (16-29; 30-49) were more likely to report feeling lonely often or always than the oldest (70+). This was not the case in the previous quarter. (An average of 9.7% and 8.2% respectively versus 3.7%)
  • The over 70s were more likely to report feeling lonely hardly ever/never compared to the youngest surveyed (16-29) in the most recent quarter (60.6% versus 35.9%) and in the previous one (August to November 2022). The next age group of 50-69s also reported feeling lonely hardly ever/never (53.9%).
  • An average of 7.08% of people reported feeling lonely often/always from November 2022 to February 2023. This equates to an estimated 3.7 million people.  However, confidence intervals for this period were wide (showing the true figure could be between 3.1 million and 4.4 million) such that people surveyed may have been moving in and out of ‘severe’ loneliness over the period.
  • Levels of loneliness:
     – 2018 and at the start of the pandemic in 2021 levels reported by the ONS were 5%, an estimated 2.6 million people.
     – Between October 2020 and February 2021 this rose to 7.2%
     – Between October-December 2022 levels were 7.08%, about 3.7 million people. 

Notes to editor

The Campaign analyses the ON 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. 

Analysis of the data was carried out in March 2023 to responses from ONS Opinions and Lifestyle Survey over December 2022-February 2023 using a representative sample of people aged 16 and over in Great Britain. 

An average of 2,113 participants engaged with the ONS Opinions during each wave of the Lifestyle Survey between August and November 2022 and 2,615 participants between November 2022 and February 2023.

The Campaign to End Loneliness believes that people of all ages need connections that matter. There are more than 3 million people who are experiencing chronic loneliness in the UK. Our vision is that everyone can live a life free from chronic loneliness.

We’ve been experts in the field of loneliness and connection since 2011. We have three priorities:

  • We develop evidence to make a practical difference.
  • We bring together the community of organisations who care about this issue to share their expertise and experience.
  • We make the case for action on loneliness across society.

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