Loneliness and isolation - understanding the difference and why it matters


Loneliness is not the same as social isolation. People can be isolated (alone) yet not feel lonely. People can be surrounded by other people, yet still feel lonely.


Social isolation is an objective measure of the number of contacts that people have. It is about the quantity and not quality of relationships. People may choose to have a small number of contacts.


Loneliness and social isolation are different but related concepts. Social isolation can lead to loneliness and loneliness can lead to social isolation. Both may also occur at the same time.


People can experience different levels of social isolation and loneliness over their lifetime, moving in and out of these states as their personal circumstances change.


Loneliness and social isolation also share many factors that are associated with increasing the likelihood of people experiencing each, such as deteriorating health, and sensory and mobility impairments.



  • Age UK Befriending Service - one of the ways we try to combat loneliness in later life is through our friendship services. Befriending services are available at many local Age UKs. They will often involve a volunteer befriender visiting an older person in their home, perhaps for a cup of tea and a chat, or accompanying them to an activity (such as a trip to a cafe or the theatre). In some cases, a volunteer may accompany the older person to occasional hospital or doctor's appointments.


The Age UK Advice Line is a free, confidential, national phone service for older people, their families, friends, carers and professionals, which is open 365 days a year (8am-7pm). If you're feeling lonely or need some practical help and support, please call us on 0800 678 1602.



  • Charity The Silver Line - offer free telephone friendship services so you can enjoy chatting with someone over the phone, all from the comfort of your own home.


Whether you’d like to speak to someone every week, or just want to talk when the need strikes, we’re here to help. 0800 4 70 80 90.

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