University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1733-1742
Number of pages10
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Early online date23 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2017


Loneliness in later life is a common problem with poor health outcomes. However, interventions to
prevent or ameliorate loneliness have a weak evidence base. The views of older people experiencing
or at risk of loneliness in the community are important in identifying features of potential support,
but have been little studied.
Twenty eight community-dwelling people, aged 65 and over who reported being ‘lonely much of the
time’ or identified as lonely from the de Jong-Gierveld 6-item loneliness scale in a larger study,
participated in in-depth interviews, between June 2013-May 2014. Views and experiences on
seeking support from primary care and community based one-to-one and group based activities,
including social and shared interest groups, were explored. Interviews were recorded and
transcribed. Thematic analysis was conducted by a multi-disciplinary team, including older people.
Using two different measures of loneliness enabled a spectrum of loneliness experience to be
explored. Two thirds of the participants were the ‘younger-old’ and all were able to leave their
homes independently. Older people with characteristics of loneliness were generally knowledgeable
about local social and community resources but, for the majority, community and primary care
based services for their loneliness were not considered desirable or helpful at this point in their lives.
However, group based activities with a shared interest were thought preferable to one-to-one
support (befriending) or groups with a social focus. Descriptions of support as being for loneliness
and specific to older people discouraged engagement. Older people experiencing or at risk of
loneliness did not consider that primary care has a role in alleviating loneliness because it is not an
illness. They thought primary care lack understanding of non-physical problems and that a good relationship was necessary to discuss sensitive issues like loneliness. For many, loneliness was a complex and private matter that they wished to manage without external support.


© 2017 The Authors. Health and Social Care in the Community Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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