Loneliness, wellbeing, and social activity in Scottish older adults resulting from social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic

Simone A. Tomaz, Pete Coffee, Gemma C. Ryde, Bridgitte Swales, Kacey C. Neely, Jenni Connelly, Andrew Kirkland, Louise McCabe, Karen Watchman, Federico Andreis, Jack G. Martin, Ilaria Pina, Anna C. Whittaker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined the impact of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic on loneliness, wellbeing, and social activity, including social support, in Scottish older adults. A mixed methods online survey was used to examine these factors during social distancing mid-lockdown, July 2020. Participants were asked to state whether loneliness, wellbeing, social activity, and social support had changed since pre-social distancing, and to provide details of strategies used to keep socially active. A total of 1429 adults (84% aged 60+ years) living in Scotland took part. The majority reported that social distancing regulations made them experience more loneliness and less social contact and support. Loneliness during lockdown was higher than reported norms for this age group before the pandemic. A larger social network, more social contact, and better perceived social support seemed to be protective against loneliness and poor wellbeing. Positive coping strategies reported included increasing online social contact with both existing social networks and reconnecting with previous networks, as well as increasing contact with neighbours and people in the community. This underlines the importance of addressing loneliness and social support in older adults but particularly during situations where risk of isolation is high.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4517
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2021


  • Loneliness
  • Social isolation
  • Social network
  • Social support
  • Wellbeing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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