Older men more likely to feel lonely than men living alone – study
Older women are often better at maintaining social contacts outside the home than men, says a professor.
Older women are less likely to feel lonely than older men living on their own, a study has found.
Loneliness is most prevalent among over-75s and those living alone, the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda) has found.
The study found almost 10% of older adults are socially isolated, meaning they have little or no regular social contacts with other people.
Social isolation is more prevalent in Dublin than in rural areas, with 7% in the capital saying they often feel lonely.
The study found older people who live alone are almost twice as likely to be the most lonely compared to those who live with others.
Loneliness was found to be damaging to the health and well being of older adults, with those reporting feeling lonely having poorer quality of life and health.
One-third of those aged 50 and older who took part in the study said they felt lonely at least some of the time.
The results are based on information from 8,500 older adults in an Irish study on ageing from 2009.
However, more recent data from 2016 found few changes in loneliness levels between then and 2009.
The study by researchers at Trinity College Dublin found people from rural areas were less likely than those from Dublin to be in the most isolated group.
Women aged 75 years and older were more likely than younger women to report being moderately lonely.
The study found that loneliness did not simply increase steadily as people aged but that is decreased when people were aged 50 to 67 years old before increasing again into older age.
Older people who live alone are almost twice as likely to be the most lonely compared to those who live with others, the report says.
One of the authors of the report Dr Mark Ward said people who feel involved and included in their community tend to be happier in themselves.
“The key thing for older people is being involved in community organisations be it reading groups, walking groups or anywhere they can go and regularly connect with others,” he said.
Dr Ward said the research showed men living alone were more likely to feel lonely than women.
“This is because women tend to be better than men for maintaining a social circle outside their immediate family.
“They also tend to be better at confiding in people and having conversations with friends that are beneficial to their wellbeing,” he said.
Dr Ward said loneliness is damaging to the health and wellbeing of individuals and policy makers need to address the problem of loneliness as we face a increasing older population.
He added community groups and those working with older people in their communities are best placed to identify those in need of support.