Single women living alone in later life: evidence from Understanding Society data

Publication type

Book Chapter


Hafiz T.A. Khan, Trish Hafford-Letchfield and Nicky Lambert

Publication date

Series Number

NO. 10


This chapter picks up the study of gender issues within ageing populations. According to OECD statistics, the UK is the loneliest country in Europe and the least likely to report having close friendships or knowing our neighbours (OECD, 2005). The number of people living on their own has doubled since the 1970s, with single-person households now making up a third of all homes. We report on the findings of our examination of some of the factors associated with health and well-being of women living alone in later life using data collected in the 'Understanding Society' 2012. This is a nationwide longitudinal survey that captures important information on the life course trajectories of individuals in the UK. By looking at variables associated with health and wellbeing, we have identified some relevant determinants when looking at single older women living alone. The prevalence of living alone during later life varies widely across developed countries, but everywhere its growth has been remarkable in recent decades, even in societies with traditionally strong family ties (Reher and Requena, 2017). Within the increasing trend of single women living alone over time and space, there is a need to adapt and develop more accurate measures and research designs in order to begin to understand the factors impacting on the nature of ageing for those who are living alone. Forming new intimate relationships might be one way of compensating for any loneliness associated with this phenomenon (Carr, 2004).



Social Groups, Older People, Demography, Well Being, Health, Life Course Analysis and Sociology



Not held in Hilary Doughty Research Library - bibliographic reference only