Key points

  • In a recent data analytics project, we examined the characteristics of people aged 65 or older living alone and the impact that living arrangements have on their health care use. 
  • One in four older people living alone have a mental health condition, compared to one in five for older people living with others.
  • People living alone were on average sicker than those living with others. Half of older people living alone had three or more long term conditions.

In a recent research paper, we worked in collaboration with a large multi-site GP practice in London, Valentine Health Partnership. We examined the characteristics of people over the age of 64 living alone and impact of living alone on older people’s number of GP appointments, A&E attendances, outpatient appointments and hospital admissions. We used existing GP data in a new way to create anonymised household groups, which were then used to identify older people living alone.

Half of the group of older people in the sample lived alone. The results of the study show that more than one in four older people living alone have a mental health condition (26.2%), compared to one in five older people living with others (22.7%). Older people living alone also have more long-term conditions. Nearly half (49.9%) of patients aged 65 or older who lived alone have three or more long term conditions, compared to 42.2% of older people living with others.

The research shows that by tackling factors that impact people living on their own, such as loneliness and social isolation, there is the potential to reduce pressure on A&E departments and GP services. This is particularly relevant heading into winter when services are overstretched.

Further reading


Understanding the health care needs of people with multiple health conditions

November 2018

As the number of people with multiple health conditions grows, meeting their needs will be one of...


Living alone matters

13 December 2018

Principal Data Analyst Kathryn Dreyer uses data to explore the connection between older people...

You might also like...


The full health and care data strategy must address its shortcomings


Building trust, addressing health inequalities and improving social care data are critical if the...

Press release

Model that predicts patient risk from COVID-19 wins Florence Nightingale Award for Excellence in Healthcare Data Analytics

Press release

Health Foundation announcement of the winner of the 2021 Florence Nightingale Award for Excellence...

Improvement project

Bradford and Craven Innovation Hub

Improvement project

This Hub will focus on ageing well, and in particular anticipatory care, enhanced health in care...

Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101 copy

Get social

Automation and AI hold huge potential for improving health care, and supporting the NHS to meet the challenges it f…

Follow us on Twitter
Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101

Work with us

We look for talented and passionate individuals as everyone at the Health Foundation has an important role to play.

View current vacancies
Artboard 101 copy 2

The Q community

Q is an initiative connecting people with improvement expertise across the UK.

Find out more