Dr Juliet Stone, Research Fellow at the ESRC Centre for Population Change, writes on the OUP Blog about her research investigating trends in household composition and exploring how experiences and exposures across the life course can influence outcomes in later life.
Her paper ‘The transition to living alone and psychological distress in later life’ was published in Age and Ageing earlier this year.
Is living alone in later life bad for your health? As we get older, the likelihood that we will be living on our own increases. We live in an ageing population and data
from the Office for National Statistics show that in 2010, nearly half of people aged 75 and over were living on their own. So the experiences and concerns of older people living alone are increasingly relevant to policy-makers and to society at large. Physical health is a major concern as we age and living arrangements can be important, particularly if an older person has nobody living with them who can provide practical support. But what about mental health? We hear reports in the media about a rapid rise in the number of people living alone in the UK potentially leading to a “loneliness epidemic”. But the reality is likely to be more complex. In particular, older people will very often be living alone because they have outlived their spouse or partner, and bereavement will likely have its own effects on mental health. So what role does the transition to living alone play in this process?