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Loneliness in later life: older people's experiences and responses to loneliness

Kharicha, Kalpa Vrajlal; (2019) Loneliness in later life: older people's experiences and responses to loneliness. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Background Loneliness is a subjective experience; an emotional and unpleasant response to a lack of satisfactory companionship. In Western society, some consider this a major public health problem, however the evidence for effective interventions remains inconclusive. Loneliness can be socially stigmatised, and many people do not seek help. This research explores how community dwelling older people who self-identify as lonely describe their experiences of loneliness, their views on involving others, including community resources, and how they respond to loneliness themselves. Methods 1. Systematic review and narrative synthesis of qualitative studies reporting strategies employed by older people to manage their loneliness, with model development. 2. Qualitative study comprising 28 in-depth interviews with older people in England who identified as lonely using two different loneliness measures. Data were collected between 2013-2014 and analysed thematically. Findings The review identified 11 studies. Strategies can be described by a model with two overarching and overlapping dimensions, one related to the context of coping (alone or with others), the other related to strategy type (prevention/action or acceptance/endurance of loneliness). The circumstances and context of loneliness experiences were wide-ranging and loneliness was often inseparable from other distressing events. Although generally knowledgeable about local resources, most did not consider these desirable or helpful. For many, loneliness was a private matter to be managed without external support. Multiple strategies, developed over time and shaped by individual coping styles and contexts, were used. They included managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviours privately, within an ‘inside world’, or actively engaging with other people or places, in an ‘outside world’. Conclusion Older people articulated strategies they used to deal with distressing feelings and can be regarded as active agents in managing their loneliness. Understanding individual definitions of loneliness, coping styles and contexts are key to identifying acceptable and meaningful support.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Loneliness in later life: older people's experiences and responses to loneliness
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2019. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request. - Some third party copyright material has been removed from this e-thesis.
UCL classification: UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10072554
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