Does Loneliness Have a Causal Effect on Depression in Older Age? Evidence from the Campaign to End Loneliness in the UK

Liming Li , King's College London / University of Cambridge
Erica Reinhard, King's College London / Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam
Ludovico Carrino, King's College London
Mauricio Avendano, King's College London / Harvard University

There has been increasing evidence supporting loneliness as a risk factor for the mental health of older people. However, it remains unclear whether this relationship is causal, and whether reducing loneliness would improve mental health. By using an anti-loneliness campaign targeting older people in the UK, this study aims to investigate the potential causal effects of loneliness on mental health in older people. We use a difference-in-differences approach that exploits variation in the implementation of anti-loneliness strategies by local authorities and Well-being Boards across 9 regions in England. We find that loneliness decreased substantially during the period of the campaign, but regions that had higher levels of exposure to the campaign experienced larger declines. We expect results to have important public policy implications and to support calls for greater awareness in tackling loneliness among older people.

See extended abstract

 Presented in Session 93. Mental Health and Wellbeing