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School of Geography

Measuring loneliness and its corresponding effects among ageing populations

Supervisors: Dr Luke Burns  and Dr Myles Gould (both University of Leeds) and nominated contact at Age UK.

This Masters by Research (MbR) project will explore the growing problem of loneliness among older populations and its consequential effects in the UK.  In an ageing society with more people living longer many older people risk loneliness and social isolation due to becoming detached from family, friends and wider society.  This is not simply an emotional feeling given its documented links to mental and physical health and, as a result, pressures on national health and social care services. 

This MbR project will explore loneliness and devise a composite index through which this can be located, measured and analysed.  The index will combine census, lifestyle and other variables to quantify loneliness at the small area level.  Such predictor variables will likely be determined through literature, interviews and liaison with Age UK and its partners. 
The work will build upon more exploratory-level analyses undertaken by the supervisory team (outputs available on request) to formulate a robust and transparent measure of loneliness nationwide.

The outcome is likely to be a freely available dataset and replicable solution to assist the public service with the targeting of areas deemed most at risk from loneliness and resultant mental and physical health conditions at a time when such issues are high on the political agenda.  Age UK and the supervisory team anticipate widespread impact and uptake from local authorities, the network of local Age UKs, and the wider community. 

GoodGym (social enterprise) and Future Cities Catapult (Innovate UK) are likely to become involved with this research, alongside Age UK.

This project would suit somebody with a human geography background and strong interests/expertise in the following areas: Quantitative research, spatial/statistical analysis, GIS, demography and data manipulation.  As part of the required training for this research, the successful candidate is likely to spend several days at the European Commission in Ispra, Italy on a composite indices course (subject to availability and all costs covered).

To discuss this opportunity further, please contact Dr Luke Burns (lead supervisor): (l.p.burns(at)