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One-third of Irish adults over 50 report feeling lonely at least some of the time

The report will be launched today by researchers at Trinity College Dublin.

Older people who live alone are almost twice as likely to be the most lonely compared to those who live with others.
Older people who live alone are almost twice as likely to be the most lonely compared to those who live with others.
Image: Shutterstock/Lighthunter

OLDER ADULTS WHO live alone are significantly more likely to feel lonely than those who live with others, research from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) has found. 

One-third of those aged 50 and older who took part in the study said they felt lonely at least some of the time. Loneliness is most prevalent among over-75s and those living alone, the research found. 

These results are based on information from 8,500 older adults in an Irish study on ageing. The results are from 2009, but a chapter in the report analyses the difference between this information and more recent data from 2016 and found few changes in loneliness levels between the two dates.

The study undertaken by researchers at Trinity College Dublin found that loneliness did not simply increase steadily as people aged. It decreased from 50 to 67 years, before increasing into older age. 

There was a correlation found between a lower quality of life being felt by the loneliest participants. Lower levels of education, living alone and having poor self-rated health were also associated with higher levels of loneliness. 

Over three-quarters of the loneliest group of older adults had depressive symptoms. People with third-level degrees were more than 10% more likely to be the most socially integrated group. 

One of the authors of the report Dr Mark Ward said the researchers were surprised that there was no difference in levels of loneliness between genders and those from rural or urban areas. 

“One of the most worrying findings is that loneliness strongly related to all kinds of physical and mental health issues,” Ward told TheJournal.ie. 

He added that loneliness will become “increasingly more worrying” as the population ages and some older people end up living alone. 

Information has been been gathered from participants every two years since 2009 and will continue for at least another six years as part of this study. 

People from rural areas were less likely than those from Dublin to be in the most isolated group. Women aged 75 years and older were more likely than younger women to report being moderately lonely.  

Older people who live alone are almost twice as likely to be the most lonely compared to those who live with others, the report says.  

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