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The Health and Wellbeing of Older Women Living Alone in the UK: Is Living Alone a Risk Factor for Poorer Health?

A Correction to this article was published on 14 September 2021

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Older women are more likely to live alone in later life in the UK; however, relatively little is known as to how this has an association with poorer health. This paper attempts to fill this research gap, assessing if living alone is a risk factor for poorer health in later life. The Household Panel Survey data, wave 8 were used which was collected during 2017 in the United Kingdom. Women’s household types were divided into three types: living alone, living with a partner and living with others (not a partner). Seven health and wellbeing outcome variables were used. Descriptive analysis and regression analyses examined the role of living alone in predicting health and wellbeing, controlling for demographic and socioeconomic (SES) factors.

Results showed significant differences between the household types. However, living alone was not found to be a risk factor for poorer health once SES variables were included in the regression models. While there were differences in the health and wellbeing of the three household composition types, these differences were not found to be significant once demographic and socioeconomic variables were accounted for. Future UK policy should aim to reduce inequalities in SES throughout the life course to improve health and wellbeing in later life. Future research directions include a more detailed examination of the determinants of health of this population.

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The research benefits from an academic collaboration with the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, University of Oxford, UK where Professor Hafiz Khan is an associate professorial fellow. Special thanks go to the anonymous reviewers and the editor of the journal for their helpful comments and suggestions.


This study was funded by a Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship from the University of West London, Sponsor Licence No: VJVD7MND6.

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Study design: HK CF & PF, data analysis: CF, HK & LU, manuscript preparation: CF, PF, HK and LU.

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Correspondence to Cat Forward.

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This study was approved by the College of Nursing Midwifery and Healthcare Research Ethics Panel at University of West London, Ref. No. UWL/REC/CNMH-00495.

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Forward, C., Khan, H.T.A., Fox, P. et al. The Health and Wellbeing of Older Women Living Alone in the UK: Is Living Alone a Risk Factor for Poorer Health?. Ageing Int 47, 392–414 (2022).

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  • Older women
  • Living alone
  • Lone dwelling
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Household composition