Who is lonely in lockdown? Cross-cohort analyses of predictors of loneliness before and during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Journal Article

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Feifei Bu, Andrew Steptoe and Daisy Fancourt

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Background: There are concerns internationally that lockdown measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to a rise in loneliness. As loneliness is recognised as a major public health concern, it is therefore vital that research considers the impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic on loneliness in order to provide necessary support. But it remains unclear who is lonely in lockdown? Methods: This study compared socio-demographic predictors of loneliness before and during the COVID-19 pandemic using cross-cohort analyses of data from UK adults captured before the pandemic (UK Household Longitudinal Study, n=31,064) and during the pandemic (UCL COVID-19 Social Study, n=60,341). Results: Risk factors for loneliness were near identical prior to and during the pandemic. Young adults, women, people with lower education or income, the economically inactive, people living alone, and urban residents had a higher odds of being lonely. Some people who were already at risk for being lonely (e.g. young adults aged 18-30, people with low household income, and adults living alone) experienced a heightened risk during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to usual (indicated by higher coefficients). Further, being a student emerged as a higher risk factor during lockdown than usual. Conclusions: Findings suggest that interventions to reduce or prevent loneliness during COVID-19 should be targeted at those socio-demographic groups already identified as high-risk in previous research. These groups are likely not just to experience loneliness during the pandemic but to have an even higher odds than normal of experiencing loneliness relative to low-risk groups.




Psychology, Demography, Well Being, Health, Social Stratification and Covid 19


Open Access; The copyright holder for this preprint is the author/funder, who has granted medRxiv a license to display the preprint in perpetuity. It is made available under a CC-BY 4.0 International license