Context of research into loneliness

"A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ" (John Steinbeck)

National and international research has found that older people are particularly vulnerable to loneliness and or social isolation due to the loss of friends, family, mobility, health or income. It has also been shown that loneliness has a significant negative impact on health, with some research showing that a lack of social connection is as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

The Cotswolds’ ageing population – nearly a third of the total population is past retirement age and this is expected to grow – and rural nature, placing it in the lowest 10% in the national accessibility rankings, compounds issues of loneliness and isolation for local residents.

Brief for the research into loneliness in Cotswold district

With financial support from Gloucestershire's Police and Crime Commissioner, we have requested research to:

  • Identify the scale and extent of loneliness and isolation in the Cotswold district, amongst people over the age of 65
  • Understand the impact that loneliness and isolation have on residents’ physical and emotional health and wellbeing
  • Identify current initiatives and services designed to help prevent and reduce loneliness and assess their success, making recommendations for future service development
  • Provide information for use in influencing health and social care commissioners in their commissioning of early intervention and preventative services.

Findings of the research into loneliness in Cotswold district

A key aspect of this project was the gathering of qualitative information through a number of focus groups and in depth interviews, conducted with older people across the district. 44 people over the age of 65 participated and shared their views on and experiences of loneliness and isolation.

The participants confirmed many of the findings of national and international research: that loneliness and isolation are prevalent amongst older people; that this has a detrimental effect on their health and wellbeing and can lead to dependence on statutory health services; and that early intervention and preventative services and activities can help to prevent or reduce loneliness.

For a full report on the findings of the interviews please:

The following messages came from this part of the research:

  • The lack of accessible, appropriate and convenient transport is a significant issue, particularly for those with limited mobility
  • A lack of confidence in using IT is preventing older people from using e.g. Skype and Facebook and the benefits it can offer for keeping in touch
  • There is demand for more community based social groups and outings – supported by transport to access them – and more activities for men
  • Increased coverage of carer respite services is needed to help carers who feel lonely or isolated to access activities and groups that will help reduce loneliness
  • Service availability was often better than people thought suggesting a need to improve awareness of locally available services
  • Older people generally feel safe from crime in their Cotswold communities but are fearful of falling and during dark winter evenings. Some reported that they know of people who have become dependent on alcohol due to loneliness.

Loneliness reports


Cotswold District Council
Trinity Road