Are young adults with long-standing illness or disability at increased risk of loneliness? Evidence from the UK Longitudinal Household Study

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ABSTRACT

Background: Recent evidence has shown that young adults experience significant levels of loneliness, and those with long-standing illness or disability (LSID) may be particularly vulnerable. This study investigated whether young adults with LSID were more likely to experience loneliness than their ‘healthy’ peers, after accounting for key socio-contextual and health-related factors associated with loneliness.

Design and Methods: 
 The sample consists of 4510 16-24-year-old individuals from Wave 9 of the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS). Loneliness was measured using the UCLA 3-item loneliness scale, in addition to a direct indicator of frequency of loneliness. Correlation tests measured associations between both measures of loneliness and LSID. Ordinal logistic regression was used to examine the association between LSID and UCLA loneliness, after accounting for key demographic and socio-contextual variables.

Results:
 Results from the correlation tests demonstrated significant associations between LSID and both measures of loneliness. Results from the ordinal logistic regression models indicated that chronic illness was significantly associated with loneliness, after accounting for various demographic, social, and well-being factors. In addition, individuals with fewer close friends reported higher loneliness, as did those with poorer mental health, and low well-being scores. Younger participants, age brackets 16-18 and 19-21, were found to report higher loneliness than the individuals aged 22-24-year-old.

Conclusions: Overall, the study found significant evidence of associations between the presence of LSID and loneliness in young adults (16-24 years old), suggesting these individuals are at an increased risk of loneliness, and could be a focus for future public health interventions.

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