Loneliness is a terrible emotion. It steals the fun from life, hurts our health and prevents us from following our dreams. Unfortunately, it is also a taboo subject, which few are willing to discuss in public. So, we let it sit quietly in our hearts and convince ourselves that we are alone in our loneliness. I want Sixty and Me to be a part of the solution and, as a first step, I reached out to the members of our community to ask them about their own experiences with loneliness.
Their responses were touching, honest and, in many cases, heartbreaking to read. All of us feel alone from time to time, but, the degree to which we feel helpless to change our situation surprised me. Your responses convinced me that we need to do more to help.
Of course, all of the individual responses to our survey were confidential, but, I wanted to share some of the aggregate data with you here. I hope that the results of this survey show you that loneliness is not an issue that you are facing alone.
In the meantime, I hope that the following inspires you to reach out to someone else today. Share a kind word or two, send a hug on Skype, or call someone in your family that you haven’t spoken with in a while. You are an amazing person and you deserve to be appreciated and loved.
Here are the results of our first Sixty and Me loneliness survey.
Because the survey was sent to our Sixty and Me community, 98% of the participants were women. We had a wide range of ages, with most people being between 55 – 69 years old. Over 1,000 people responded to the survey, showing the high level of interest in this topic.
Q: What is your gender?
Q: What is your age?
Loneliness is a complicated concept to measure, even for psychologists. In our survey, we simplified the process somewhat, by asking 4 questions about loneliness. What we found was that 75% of the people who completed the survey said that they felt lonely. The majority of respondents said that they found themselves without someone to talk to at least sometimes. 38% of people said that they felt like they often have no one to talk to. Click to tweet >
Q: Do you feel lonely?
Q: How often do you feel like you have no one to talk to?
Q: How often do you find yourself waiting for people to write or call?
Q: How often do you feel completely alone?
As a part of the survey, we asked our community which factors they felt contributed most to their loneliness. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most common answers involved a lack of friends. However, it is interesting to note that respondents did not put an equal weight on all types of relationships. The lack of a spouse (45% mentioned) was considered to be a greater contributing factor to loneliness than the lack of close friends (44% mentioned). Likewise, the lack of close friends was considered to be a more important factor than a lack of contact with family members (36% mentioned.)
In other words, we don’t just want more people in our lives. We want the right people in our lives. We want intimacy, not interaction. We want true connections, not just surface level contacts.
Q: If you feel lonely, which of the following contributes to your feelings of loneliness?
About 85% of the people surveyed said that they had taken at least one step to make new friends in the last year. 31% of participants said that they had joined a new social club or activity, 14% mentioned volunteering, 10% tried online dating and 6% went back to work part-time.
So, in other words, many of you realize that you want more friends, but, for whatever reason you are not able to find them through your daily activities. Let’s work together to find new ways to connect!
Poor health has traditionally been thoughts of as a contributing factor to loneliness, so, we were somewhat surprised to hear that 79% of our audience felt like they were in “good” health or better. In addition, 69% of our respondents said that they exercised at least 2 times per week.
Q: How many times per week to you exercise (walking, jogging, fitness, etc)?
Q: Relative to other people your age, how would you rate your overall health at the present time?
Perhaps due to the fact that loneliness is a somewhat taboo subject, people underestimated how lonely others feel. While 75% of our respondents said that they feel lonely, only 19% said that they thought that 50% or more of other people feel lonely.
I see this as an opportunity to change the way we talk about loneliness at the most fundamental level. We need to stop thinking about loneliness as something that only we feel. There are so many amazing people in the world. We just need to find a way to connect!
Q: What percentage of other people your age do you think consider themselves to be lonely?
Loneliness is a large and complex issue. Looking over the results of this survey, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I feel sad for all of the people in our community who are suffering with loneliness, despite their efforts to find friends. On the other hand, I am honored that so many of you took the time to respond. Your engagement and passion shows me that you are interested in helping to find solutions to this important challenge.
If you are feeling lonely, I encourage you to read our articles on loneliness and, most of all, reach out to the other amazing women in our community. Loneliness after 50 is an important issue and, together, we can make a difference!
What do you think of the results of this survey? Are there any numbers that surprise you? What additional questions about loneliness would you like us to ask in a future survey? Please add your thoughts in the comments section below.