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Social capital, age and religiosity in people who are lonely


  • William Lauder PhD, RMN,

  • Kerry Mummery PhD,

  • Siobhan Sharkey PhD, RN

William Lauder
School of Nursing & Midwifery
University of Dundee
Dundee DD1 4HN
Telephone: 01382 348558


Aims and objectives.  The aims of the study were to (i) investigate age and loneliness, (ii) investigate the association between religiosity and loneliness, and (iii) and explore the relationship between social capital and loneliness.

Background.  Loneliness is the subjective experience of social isolation and is a risk factor for a wide range of health problems including heart disease and depression. Poor self-rated health, domestic violence and poor economic conditions are associated with greater loneliness.

Design.  The study was a cross-sectional survey of a random sample of adults aged 18 years and over.

Methods.  A random sample of 1289 subjects was interviewed by computer-assisted telephone interviewing. This interview included the Loneliness Scale and items from the Social Capital Module of the General Household Survey.

Findings.  Loneliness is more common in men and people without strong religious beliefs. An income-loneliness gradient is evident. Little support was found for the association between social capital and loneliness.

Conclusion.  The prevalence of loneliness is relatively stable in this population. Loneliness is linked to income and unemployment and as such pathways between socio-economic factors, loneliness and health need to guide interventions and future research.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Loneliness is linked to a range of social and economic factors. Current Health Visiting practice recognizes the importance of tackling the effects of poverty and social deprivation and places community building at the core of much Health Visiting practice. This broad community level approach can usefully transfer into all community nursing and health promotion activity.