Health and health care use of older people living alone

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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.
Chart: 50% of older people living along have 3 or more health condition

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.

Chart : 26% of older people living alone have a mental health condition

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

Briefing

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