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Loneliness among older persons in Uganda: examining social, economic and demographic risk factors



Later-life loneliness is becoming an area of great concern in Uganda in light of gradual weakening of extended family as a source of old-age human support. Although information about the effects of feeling lonely exists, little is known about the associated risk factors within the country's social and cultural setting. This paper discusses prevalence and correlates of feeling lonely among older persons. An interviewer-administered questionnaire was used to collect data on 605 older persons in a 2012 cross-sectional study. Respondents were asked to evaluate how they felt in terms of loneliness during the administration of the questionnaire. A total of ten focus group discussions and 12 key informant interviews were also conducted to collect qualitative data. Binary logistic regression was used to predict factors affecting loneliness. Findings indicate that approximately seven in ten older persons felt lonely. Elderly people residing in the urban area were more likely to be lonely than their counterparts staying in the rural environment. In comparison with married older persons, elderly people who were widowed were more likely to be lonely. Absence of a television and pension benefits and prevalence of limb joint ill-health predicted loneliness. The findings have several implications, including developing age-friendly urban centres, encouraging old-age social organisations, decentralising the elderly health-care system and establishing a special old-age fund.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Abel Nzabona, Population Studies, Makerere University, Box 7062, Kampala, Uganda E-mail:


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