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Prevalence and Social Inequality in Youth Loneliness in the UK

Qualter, Pamela; Hennessey, Alexandra; Yang, Keming; Chester, Kayleigh L.; Klemera, Ellen; Brooks, Fiona

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Pamela Qualter

Alexandra Hennessey

Kayleigh L. Chester

Ellen Klemera

Fiona Brooks


Using data from the English arm of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study, we examined the prevalence of loneliness for school-aged adolescents and how it is linked to social inequalities. The HBSC study collects data from 11-, 13-, and 15-year-olds, and is repeated every four years, allowing the exploration of prevalence rates of loneliness pre COVID-19 pandemic for comparison. We also explored whether loneliness was associated with socio-economic status (SES) and linked to academic attainment and health complaints. The total sample was 14,077 from 156 schools in England. Findings revealed a stable prevalence rate of 8.2% for loneliness from 2006 to 2014. We also found, across all survey years, (1) those aged 15 years were significantly lonelier than younger peers, (2) those who reported lower SES were lonelier than their more well-off peers, and (3) higher loneliness was associated with being ‘”below average” academically and reporting more health complaints. Conclusions: These prevalence data enable researchers, policymakers, and others to make comparisons with prevalence rates during the COVID-19 pandemic to explore whether there have been increases in loneliness among school-aged adolescents. Loneliness was consistently related to social inequalities, suggesting that targeted interventions that include whole systems changes are needed.


Qualter, P., Hennessey, A., Yang, K., Chester, K. L., Klemera, E., & Brooks, F. (2021). Prevalence and Social Inequality in Youth Loneliness in the UK. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(19), Article 10420.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 1, 2021
Online Publication Date Oct 3, 2021
Publication Date Oct 1, 2021
Deposit Date Oct 5, 2021
Publicly Available Date Oct 5, 2021
Journal International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Print ISSN 1661-7827
Publisher MDPI
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 18
Issue 19
Article Number 10420


Published Journal Article (255 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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