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The public health impact of loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic

Allen, J, Darlington, O, Hughes, K and Bellis, MA (2022) The public health impact of loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic. BMC Public Health, 22 (1). ISSN 1471-2458

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Open Access URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12889-022-14055-2 (published)


Background: Social distancing measures have been effective in mitigating the spread of COVID-19; however, they have imposed a significant burden on population mental health and well-being. This study aimed to identify factors associated with loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to describe the relationship between loneliness and the risk of worsening health outcomes and behaviours. Methods: Data for 8,960 adults were drawn from a national cross-sectional survey undertaken in Wales between January and June 2021. Participants self-reported changes to health and behaviour since the start of the pandemic. Logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with loneliness, and the impact of loneliness on self-reported changes in physical health, physical fitness, mental health, weight, alcohol consumption and social relations in comparison with pre-pandemic experiences. Results: Groups most at risk of loneliness were those aged < 35 years, women (odds ratio [95% confidence interval]: 1.86 [1.70–2.05]), those with chronic health conditions (1.43 [1.29–1.58]) and the unemployed (2.18 [1.76–2.70]). Loneliness was a strong predictor of worsening health outcomes and behaviours, with those reporting often feeling lonely being at increased odds of worsening physical health (3.29 [2.80–3.86]), physical fitness (2.22 [1.90–2.60]), mental health (8.33 [6.95–9.99]), weight (1.39 [1.19–1.62]), alcohol consumption (1.37 [1.12,-1.66]) and social relations (2.45 [2.07–2.89]) during the pandemic. Conclusion: This study established an association between loneliness and self-reported worsening health during the pandemic, and identified factors increasing the risk of loneliness. The effect that social control measures have on loneliness should influence the design of future public health policy.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Humans; Chronic Disease; Cross-Sectional Studies; Loneliness; Adult; Female; Self Report; Pandemics; COVID-19; COVID-19; Loneliness; Mental health; Physical health; Public health; Adult; COVID-19; Chronic Disease; Cross-Sectional Studies; Female; Humans; Loneliness; Pandemics; Self Report; 1117 Public Health and Health Services; Public Health
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Divisions: Public Health Institute
Publisher: BioMed Central
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 21 Dec 2022 09:28
Last Modified: 21 Dec 2022 09:28
DOI or ID number: 10.1186/s12889-022-14055-2
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/18444
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