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December 18, 2019

A measure for loneliness

A number of Leeds-based commissioners have a focus on reducing loneliness. This became clear at a recent consultation event, whilst discussing Key Performance indicators (KPIs) that could be used to measure the success of the AGE Friendly Leeds plan.

We thought it would work well if lots of projects used the same standard measure for loneliness. The discussion was timely with commissioning and funding cycles having scope to change and a working group was set up. It included representatives from Time to Shine at Leeds Older Peoples’ Forum, Leeds City Council, a Neighbourhood Network, Leeds Community Foundation, the Centre for Ageing Better, Public Health, and the University of Sheffield.

You can find full details of how we worked together to make the decision in the document Choosing the standard measure for loneliness for Leeds, but you will find the essence below.

A range of options was considered and we looked at factors like: how easy the questions were to use, the length of the measure, its intellectual rigour, and its value as a comparator at regional and national level.

After weighing up the pros and cons we chose the following standard loneliness measure for Leeds. It is a set of two questions (one multi-part and one single) and both or either questions can be asked, depending on the situation:

UCLA loneliness scale comprises either 3 questions or a single item

1. How often do you feel that you lack companionship?

2. How often do you feel left out?

3. How often do you feel isolated from others?

And the single-item question:

How often do you feel lonely?

● Together these questions make up the national measure for loneliness recommended by the government and the ONS (Office for National Statistics) so they will be used nationally for many years to gather data.

● They are an ‘off the shelf’ set which have been considered carefully by experts before being recommended as the national measure.

The UCLA scale is well-established and academically robust. It has a high degree of fidelity as it is generally accepted that the questions do accurately measure loneliness and is already widely used nationally, including in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing and the National Lottery Community Fund’s Ageing Better programme.

The working group will continue to meet over the next year and the results will be reported back in a second blog.