The extent and nature of loneliness in later life does not show a consistent relationship with gender. Our study investigates whether there are differences in the nature and extent of loneliness amongst older men and women in contemporary Britain.
Loneliness was measured using a self-report four-point scale in a nationally representative survey of people aged 65+ living in the community.
Survey response rate was 77 per cent and the sample of 999 approximates to that of the general population. Approximately half of our sample 53 per cent were women. Compared with males in the sample women were significantly more likely to be widowed, live alone and have direct contact with friends and relatives. Preliminary analysis identified statistically significant differences between men and women in and self-reported loneliness (and changes over the previous decade). Ordered logistic regression, indicated that gender was no longer independently associated with loneliness once the confounding influences of marital status, age and living arrangement were excluded.
The overall self-reported prevalence of severe loneliness shows little difference between men and women, challenging the stereotype that loneliness is a specifically female experience.