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Loneliness and later life: prevalence and consequences

Loneliness and later life: prevalence and consequences

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Loneliness and later life: prevalence and consequences

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  1. Loneliness and later life: prevalence and consequences Christina Victor, School of Health Sciences & Social Care, Brunel University, UK

  2. What is loneliness-definition & measurements Prevalence of loneliness Consequences of loneliness Presentation overview

  3. What gives quality to life? • Personal social capital (social activities, contacts and support, loneliness) a key dimension of quality of life • Social relationships one of the ‘good things’ that give ‘quality’ to life. Bowling and Gabriel (2004) (Bowling et al. 2002).

  4. What is loneliness? “Language... has created the word "loneliness" to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word "solitude" to express the glory of being alone.” - Paul Tillich

  5. What is loneliness? Three main approaches:- Self rating question Single dimension scale-UCLA Multi-dimensional scale-de Jong-Gierveld measure which distinguishes social and emotional loneliness Theoretical or conceptual understandings of loneliness are both complex and contested (Peplau and Perlman, 1982). Cognitive discrepancy theory Loneliness results from the difference between desired and actual social relations (Perlman & Pelau, 1981)-either in quantity or quality of relationships (or both)

  6. Loneliness and old age In 2010 a survey reported community breakdown as the major contemporary ‘social ills- it was felt that neighbours no longer know or look out for one another, which left people feeling isolated, lonely and fearful – particularly the elderly ‘’Loneliness is an inner, gnawing pain born of circumstance and inertia, verging on despair. There is a higher risk the older you get, and no one talks about it’’ Joan Bakewell-The Times 31/12/09

  7. Loneliness and old age ‘’A distressing feature of old age is loneliness. All who have done welfare work among the old have found it the most common, if at the same time the most imponderable, of the ills from which the aged suffer, and its frequency was amply confirmed by our study’’ (Rowntree, 1947,52)

  8. Prevalence of loneliness • Peer group (comparison with other older people) • Generation contrasted (comparison with younger people) • Age-related (comparison with younger selves) • Preceding cohort (comparison with previous cohorts of older people)

  9. Are older people the loneliest? Source: Victor & Yang, 2012

  10. Has loneliness in old age increased? Source: Victor et al, 2009

  11. Age related loneliness

  12. Loneliness varies over time • 50% reported loneliness worse at night & two thirds at weekend (Victor et al, 2005) • ‘’I'm lonely of a night. ‘’(Man 16) • ‘’Of a night you're lonely’’. (Woman 12) • ‘’Such a lonely life … Saturdays and Sundays are a bit dead for me…’’ • ‘’So long [Sunday] and so lonely.’’ Source: Bennett & Victor, 2012

  13. How does loneliness vary over time? • If we follow people aged 65+ over 5 years we find that:- • 25% become more lonely • 12% become less lonely • 22% were always lonely • 44% never lonely • So we can see different types of loneliness which might have different causes and require different types of interventions Source: Victor & Bowling, 2012

  14. Understanding loneliness ‘’Loneliness and social isolation are subjective lived experiences that exist in the form of multiple realities constructed and reconstructed by individual older people within the context of their different lives and life histories’’(Victor et al., 2009). Source: Sullivan & Victor, 2012

  15. Loneliness & ethnic minorities Source: Victor & Burholt, 2012

  16. Why does loneliness matter? • Reduced or low quality of life • Negative health behaviours (e.g. smoking, alcohol) • Negative health outcomes - Early studies by Durkheim link loneliness to mortality-50% higher for those lonely/isolated (independent of health status!) • Excessive use of health services-hospital admission, A&E contact,GP consultations