Loneliness in urban neighbourhoods: an Anglo-Dutch comparison

  • Thomas ScharfEmail author
  • Jenny de Jong Gierveld
Original Investigation


Past studies in the UK and the Netherlands indicate that loneliness varies significantly according to characteristics of older people’s residential environment. This raises questions regarding potential neighbourhood influences on individuals’ social relationships in later life. This article examines neighbourhood influences on loneliness, using multiple classification analysis on comparable empirical data collected in the UK and the Netherlands. UK data arise from a survey of 501 people aged 60+ in deprived neighbourhoods of three English cities. Netherlands data derive from the NESTOR Living Arrangements and Social Network survey, with a sub-sample of 3,508 people aged 60+ drawn from a nationally representative sample of older people, living in 11 municipalities. Both surveys incorporated the 11-item De Jong Gierveld Loneliness Scale. In addition to neighbourhood characteristics and indicators of health and social embeddedness, a typology of eight groups of persons was developed that accounted for individuals’ age, sex, and partner status. While 13% of participants in the UK were severely lonely, the proportion in the Netherlands was just four per cent. Mean loneliness scores in the UK varied significantly between the neighbourhoods under investigation. Additionally, the evaluated quality of the residential neighbourhood accounted for a relatively large degree of variance in loneliness in both countries.


Loneliness Urban neighbourhoods Cross-national comparison England The Netherlands 



Funding for the English study reported here was provided by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) under the Growing Older Programme (Grant no. L480254022). The Netherlands study is based on data collected in the context of the ‘Living arrangements and social networks of older adults’ (NESTOR-LSN) research programme. The programme is conducted at the VU University in Amsterdam and the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute in The Hague, and is supported by the Netherlands Program for Research on Ageing (NESTOR) and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports. The authors are grateful to Julius Sim for comments on a draft of the article and to Fleur Thomése for her help in constructing Wenger’s social network typology for the Dutch data.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Social Gerontology, Institute for Life Course StudiesKeele UniversityStaffordshireUK
  2. 2.Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)The HagueNetherlands
  3. 3.Faculty of Social SciencesVU UniversityAmsterdamNetherlands

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