Older ethnic minority adults have fewer close friends

Older adults from ethnic minority groups report having fewer close friends and fewer friends who live locally than older white people, according a new study.

The study by UCL found Black and Asian adults over the age of 65 years are almost twice as likely to report having no close friends (9% and 7% respectively) compared to White and mixed or ‘other’ ethnicity adults of the same age (both 4%).

The researchers analysed a sample of 7,499 Understanding Society participants aged 65 years and above, 329 (4.3%) of whom identified as belonging to a minority ethnic group.

“Despite the high rates of loneliness found in older ethnic minority adults, it is often assumed that they are protected from social isolation and loneliness because they are perceived as being likely to live in multigenerational households with traditional family practices. These stereotypes are damaging because they fail to acknowledge the diverse experiences and needs of different minority adults,” said lead author Brenda Hayanga, PhD candidate (UCL Institute of Education).

Of all the Black people surveyed, half (50%) reported that none of their friends were family members compared to a third of respondents with mixed or ‘other’ ethnicity (33%) and Asian respondents (32%) and just a quarter of White respondents (26%).

A higher proportion of Black (13%) and Asian (11%) people reported that none of their friends lived locally compared to White people (6%) and those of mixed or ‘other’ ethnicity (8%).

“Having close friends and peers plays a role in reducing social isolation and loneliness. Therefore, our findings suggest that older ethnic minority adults may be more vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness than older white people,” said Dr Dylan Kneale (UCL Institute of Education).

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