Living in single person households and the risk of isolation in later life

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Michael Hill
Laura Banks
Philip Haynes


Data from the International Social Survey Programme (2001) was used to analyse the social networks of older people and whether living in single person households increased the risk of isolation. When comparing respondents with one or more adult children, there was no significant difference in the likelihood of experiencing familial isolation between people living in single person households and those living in larger households. A majority of those living in single person households had at least regular contact with a sibling, adult child or close friend and participated in a social organisation. Friends compensate to some extent for a lack of support from the family, although in southern and eastern European countries, other relatives appeared to be more important in support networks. People living in single person households were more likely to experience isolation, but this was largely related to advanced age and childlessness. Whilst a very small minority in Japan were living in single person households, they were significantly more likely to be severely isolated than those living in single person households in other countries.


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