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Dealing with Loneliness after 50 – The Sixty and Me 2020 Survey Results

By Sixty and Me October 05, 2020 Health and Fitness

Loneliness is a large and complex issue. Despite so many convenient ways to connect, including texting, social media and FaceTime, we’re the most socially connected society in the midst of a loneliness epidemic. Sadly, at some point in your life it is likely you will feel this terrible emotion. If you are fortunate not to, someone you know will.

Last year, the Sixty and Me 2019 Loneliness survey results showed people don’t just want more people in their lives, they want the right people in their lives. They want intimacy, not interaction. True connections, not just surface level contacts. It was real proof that loneliness isn’t the same as social isolation. 

It is clear from this year’s results that little has changed and loneliness is still a big issue for the Sixty and Me community. What’s more, the Covid-19 pandemic has made it worse. The results show an increase from 75% of people feeling lonely in 2019 to over 85% in 2020, with a huge 78% of people surveyed saying the pandemic has amplified their feelings of loneliness. 

It’s a topic we all need to do more about. By starting these conversations, we hope that people who feel lonely can see they are not alone. In the meantime, reach out to someone today. Say hello, call a family member you haven’t spoken to in a while, or speak with a friend. You might just find you make their day and help yours. 

Here are the results of the 2020 Sixty and Me Dealing with Loneliness survey.

1,752 People Completed the Survey

As the survey was published to the Sixty and Me community, 98% of the participants were women. Highlighting the broad spectrum of the community, responses were received across the full range of ages from under 49s to over 80s. 66% of the survey respondents were ages 60–69. 

Confirming the perceived importance of this topic, over 1750 people completed the survey, offering candid insights into their own experiences of loneliness and how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected them. 

Loneliness Around the World

People responded from 50 countries around the world, covering North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australasia. Residents of the United States constituted 72% of all responses, with the United Kingdom (10%), Canada (9%), Australia (3%) and New Zealand (1%) rounding out the top five. 


87% of People Feel Lonely

Sadly, 87% of people responded that they sometimes or often feel lonely – an increase of 12% from the 75% of people who stated they felt lonely in the 2019 Sixty and Me Loneliness survey. This year, only 2% of people stated they never feel lonely. 

Q. How often do you feel lonely?

Number of people feeling lonely

“I have wonderful friends from work over the years. Unfortunately, they are busy with their own lives and I would love to have someone to go out to dinner, a movie or concert with once in a while…. I’m very tired of being alone and doing things alone… A simple conversation would be great.”

Even Those in Good Health Experience Loneliness

Q: Relative to other people your age, how would you rate your overall health at the present time?

Overall Health

88% of people rated their overall health as good or above relative to others their age which is a positive sign, given the implications loneliness can have on your health. Studies have found chronic loneliness can drive up cortisol levels in the body, which over time can impair cognitive performance, compromise the immune system, and increase your risk for vascular problems, inflammation and heart disease. However, the results of this study do therefore imply that even those in good health can and do experience loneliness. 

Despite 87% of people who completed the survey feeling lonely, only 15% of people had ever contacted a helpline or sought help about loneliness. 

Q. Have you ever contacted a helpline or sought help from a doctor or other organization about loneliness?

Sought help for loneliness

Being Alone Was the Biggest Reason for Loneliness

As part of the survey, the community was asked which factors they felt contributed most to their loneliness. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the main responses given focused around a lack of people in their lives. Not having a partner or spouse was the most common choice (52% of people), closely followed by living alone (48% of people) and not having many friends (48% of people).

Interestingly, the same trend regarding unequal weighting on types of relationship that was identified in 2019 was also prevalent this year, with lack of contact with family members mentioned by only 39% of people. 

Q. Why do you feel lonely?

Reasons for loneliness
Reasons for Loneliness

On rare occasions I miss how things were with my children when they lived at home and we would all gather around the table together. My husband and I always eat our meals together but I miss the chatter of our children.

Exercising and Getting Outdoors Is the #1 Way to Deal with Loneliness

68% of survey respondents said they deal with loneliness by getting outside into nature and / or exercising. Are we surprised? No. Research has shown a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression.

Getting outside when you feel lonely is therefore a great method to try and distract your mind from negative thinking and thoughts of loneliness. Trying to be social (46% of people), meditate or pray (42% of people) and starting a new hobby or activity (41% of people) followed closely behind, with journaling (22% of people) and giving back/volunteering (21% of people) also proving popular responses. 

Q. How do you deal with your feelings of loneliness?

Dealing with Loneliness

78% of People Said the Covid-19 Pandemic Had Amplified Loneliness

Closed borders, lockdown, social distancing – it’s unsurprising that 78% of survey respondents said their feelings of loneliness had been amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic. Hundreds wrote of their struggle with isolation, the hopelessness they experienced being unable to socialise and the anxiety they felt leaving the house. 

Q. Has the Covid-19 pandemic increased (amplified) your feelings of loneliness?

Loneliness during Covid

“I don’t contact people I know to do things because no one wants to go anywhere. There is a real fear of getting COVID.”

With in person contact limited, 61% of people said they had used video calls to stay in touch with friends and family members during the pandemic. Just under half of those used video calls for the first time. 

With in person contact limited, 61% of people said they had used video calls to stay in touch with friends and family members during the pandemic. Just under half of those used video calls for the first time. 

Q. Have you used video calls (Zoom, Skype, FaceTime etc.) to help stay in touch with friends and family members during the pandemic?

Technology during Covid

“I have never been depressed in my life. During this time I believe I have been. The isolation of the pandemic has stopped the majority of my activities.”

Q. Is this the first time you have used video calls to help stay in touch with friends and family?

Video Calls for loneliness

“I’m becoming proficient with zoom meetings and FaceTime and have had the opportunity to have virtual lunches or cocktails with friends much more often than before COVID. We’ve all slowed our lives down so we’re more purposeful about connecting with each other.”

It wasn’t, however, all doom and gloom. Many of the survey respondents spoke about the positive steps they have taken to try and help combat loneliness during these difficult times.

One had volunteered with a senior network to make phone calls to those isolated. Others had volunteered at local food pantries. Although many may find it hard to believe, a number of people mentioned they had enjoyed the enforced solitude, giving them the time at last to fully enjoy their home, garden and surrounding area.

“It’s made me realise that I have been chasing too many unnecessary things. I need to slow down.. I’m now more empathetic and value experiences more than before”

Almost Two-Thirds of People Said Has Made Them Feel Less Lonely

Sixty and Me is a community designed to help older women live happy, healthy and financially secure lives. The desire is to help women find profitable work, stay healthy and develop a positive mindset about this amazing period of their lives whilst connecting with others and becoming part of a bigger community. 

“In a nutshell… Margaret and Sixty and Me bring me hope and encouragement.”

63% of the survey respondents said Sixty and Me had helped them feel less lonely. They wrote about the comfort they took from being in a community. The connection they feel seeing someone their age on screen talking about things that matter to them.

They mentioned that they no longer feel invisible in society like their mothers and grandmothers did. But perhaps most poignant was the number of people who simply responded that Sixty and Me made them feel not alone. 

Q. Has Sixty and Me helped you feel less lonely?

Sixty and Me Loneliness

“It has helped me realize I’m not alone and what I’m feeling is the same or similar to thousands of other women over 60. I appreciate knowing that.”

With multiple new articles posted daily on a wide range of topics, 70% of survey respondents stated that passing time by reading Sixty and Me articles has helped them feel less lonely. 54% of people felt less lonely from watching Sixty and Me videos. 42% of people said just feeling connected to the Sixty and Me community had helped them. 

Q. How has Sixty and Me helped you feel less lonely?

Solving Loneliness with Sixty and Me

“It has shown me the huge numbers of people in these life situations and we are all grappling with it and trying to cope as best we can! We really are “all in this together” and it gives me motivation to keep going!”

Loneliness Is an Issue We Need to Continue Doing More About

It is clear that feelings of loneliness are as prevalent as ever and in these challenging times more and more people are experiencing them to some degree. The honesty and openness about personal experiences from the Sixty and Me community, although heartbreaking in many cases, showed the willingness of people to open up and discuss how and why they feel lonely. There is a large community out there who are passionate and enthusiastic about finding solutions to this problem. 

If you feel lonely, Sixty and Me has a large selection of articles on loneliness with new articles and videos published daily on a wide range of topics. Most importantly, if you are experiencing loneliness, try reaching out to a friend or family member to let them know – you may well find they are feeling exactly the same.

Do these results resonate with you? Did you know so many other women were also feeling lonely? What do you do to combat loneliness? Leave a comment and let us know. Let’s Have a Conversation!

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The Author

Sixty and Me is a community of over 500,000 women over 60 founded by Margaret Manning. Our editorial team publishes articles on lifestyle topics including fashion, dating, retirement and money.

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