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Impact of COVID-19 Policies on Perceptions of Loneliness in people aged 75 years and over in the Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (CFAS II)

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Connor Richardson, Professor Fiona MatthewsORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic and associated social distancing measures have profoundly impacted society and social contact patterns, with older people disproportionately affected. Concerns have been raised about a resulting pandemic of loneliness in older people, although the current evidence is mixed. This study provides a unique perspective on the prevalence of loneliness in a population cohort of older people before the pandemic, followed up after the introduction of social restrictions. Methods: Data analysis was conducted using Wave 3 of the longitudinal Cognitive Function and Ageing Study II (2018 - 2019) and a sub-study focusing on experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic (2020). The sample comprised 379 adults aged over 75 living in Cambridge, Newcastle, and Nottingham. Multivariable binary logistic regression was conducted to identify correlates of prevalent loneliness, adjusted for confounding covariates, during the pandemic. The prevalence of loneliness during the pandemic was compared to loneliness in 2018-19. Results: Prevalence of loneliness in this sample during the pandemic was 25.1% (95% CI 20.9%-29.7%) compared to 17.2% (95% CI 13.7%-21.3%) in 2018-19 (χ2=14.1, p<0.01). Variables associated with increased odds of prevalent loneliness included: prior loneliness, living alone, female gender, living in an area of higher deprivation, frequent pre-pandemic social contact at community groups, and separation from family during the pandemic, adjusted for age and sex. Weekly technology-mediated contact using telephone or video calls was associated with lower odds of loneliness. Conclusions: COVID-19 recovery plans should address loneliness in older people. Target groups should include those who have previously been lonely, people who live alone, those living in deprived areas, and those who had previously been socially active through community groups.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Richardson CD, Roscoe H, Green E, Brooks R, Barnes L, Matthews FE, Brayne C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society

Year: 2023

Volume: 71

Issue: 2

Pages: 463-473

Print publication date: 01/02/2023

Online publication date: 12/11/2022

Acceptance date: 07/11/2022

Date deposited: 23/06/2023

ISSN (electronic): 1532-5415

Publisher: Wiley


DOI: 10.1111/jgs.18099


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Funder referenceFunder name
Alzheimer's Research UK