Factors associated with feeling lonely in Northern Ireland

Everyone is likely to experience feelings of loneliness at some point in their lifetime and the effects of feeling lonely will differ from person to person. However, feelings of loneliness can negatively impact a person’s health, wellbeing and overall quality of life and so it is important to understand what factors are associated with feeling lonely. In 2017, the Jo Cox Commission for Loneliness highlighted the need to measure loneliness on a national scale to better understand the personal characteristics and circumstances associated with loneliness. Following suggestions made by the Jo Cox Commission, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) developed national measures of loneliness.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) Guidance for Measuring Loneliness recommends loneliness questions for adults and children and how to interpret and report findings.

The Continuous Household Survey (CHS) and The Annual Health Survey (from 2019/20 onwards) incorporate the recommended direct Measure of Loneliness:

  • How often do you feel lonely?

With responses Often/always, Some of the time, Occasionally, Hardly ever, Never.

In addition to this, the Annual Health Survey also incorporates the three item UCLA Loneliness Scale:

  • How often do you feel that you lack companionship?
  • How often do you feel left out?
  • How often do you feel isolated from others?

With responses Hardly ever or never, Some of the time, Often.

The direct measure for loneliness is also include in the NISRA Coronavirus (COVID-19) Opinion Survey which was launched in April 2020 to measure how the COVID-19 pandemic was affecting peoples’ lives and behaviour in Northern Ireland. A link to the most recent data can be found in the ‘Current Publications’ section below.

Publication Update

This publication has been replaced by the Wellbeing in Northern Ireland publication.

Following user feedback and to make data more accessible and comparable for each of the Wellbeing metrics, NISRA teams within The Executive Office and Department of Finance have worked in collaboration to produce the Wellbeing in NI report, which provides estimates for Northern Ireland (NI) across four areas which reflect wellbeing:

  • Loneliness – the frequency with which people report feeling lonely
  • Self-Efficacy – a person’s belief about their capabilities to exercise influence over events that affect their lives
  • Personal wellbeing – how satisfied people are with their lives, their levels of happiness and anxiety, and whether or not they think the things that they do are worthwhile
  • Locus of Control – the degree to which a person feels in control of their life

The Wellbeing report can be accessed at the link below:

Wellbeing in Northern Ireland

Previous Publications

Wellbeing in Northern Ireland: 2020/21

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Opinions Survey

‘Loneliness in Northern Ireland: 2019/20’

‘Loneliness in Northern Ireland: 2018/19’