Loneliness in later life

Social problem, public health problem, or moral panic?

MICRA hosted our 2018 Annual Public Lecture on 2 July 2018. This was be presented by Professor Christina Victor, Vice Dean Research at Brunel University, London.

Christina joined Brunel in October 2009. She is Professor of Gerontology and Public Health and Vice Dean (Research) in the College of Health and Life Sciences as well as the Ageing Studues Theme Leader in the Institute of Environment, Health and Societies.

Christina’s initial research interests were focussed upon health and health inequalities and the evaluation of services for older people. More recently she developed a keen interest in loneliness and isolation; the benefits of exercise and activity in later life and the experiences of old age and later life amongst minority communities and the experience of ageing for people with intellectual disabilities. She has received funding for her research from a range of funders including ESRC, NIHR, Dunhill Medical Trust, Leverhulme and the British Academy.

Christina has written over 200 journal articles and book chapters and has published 8 books in the field of gerontology. Her most recent book, Ageing, Health and Care, was launched by Policy Press at the British Society of Gerontology conference held at Brunel in July 2010. She is Editor of Ageing and Society, the leading social gerontology journal in Europe. She is a member of a range grant awarding bodies including NIHR and ESRC. She is a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health and an Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences. In 2017 Christina was awarded the Lifetime Achievement award of the British Society of Gerontology and awarded Fellowship of the Gerontological Society of America.

Lecture abstract

The established representation of loneliness in the UK was as a social problem of old age: a characterisation that can be traced back to the surveys of older people conducted in the immediate post war period by Sheldon and developed by Townsend and Tunstall. This lecture will explore how and why loneliness has been transformed from a social problem of old age to a public health problem with health consequences worse than smoking to a moral panic whereby loneliness among older people generates ‘excess’ service use that threatens the very future of the NHS.This lecture has the ambition to challenge this now established corpus of received wisdom and cast a more creative and critical gaze on the topic of loneliness in later life with the aim of generating fresh thinking

Lecture slides