Objectives: To determine the prevalence and demographic correlates of loneliness in a sample of older people in Perth, Western Australia.
Methods: People aged 65 years and over living in private dwellings were recruited randomly, stratified by socioeconomic area, sex and 5-year age groups to 85 years. A total of 353 people with mean age of 77.5 years responded to a mailed questionnaire comprising demographic questions and three measures of loneliness.
Results: Severe loneliness was reported by 7.0% of the sample and feeling lonely sometimes by 31.5%. Higher levels of loneliness were reported by single participants, those who lived alone and those with worse self-rated health. The protective value against loneliness of social networks appears to be, in order of importance: friends, relatives, neighbours and children.
Conclusions: Although loneliness is not universally reported by older Perth residents, its prevalence is still considerable and worthy of attention from mental health practitioners and policy-makers.