The Loneliness Index: The loneliest places for the elderly mapped

Dec 17, 2020

Care Sourcer have created a Loneliness Index to show where Britain’s elderly are struggling the most during COVID-19

Social isolation is nothing new. In fact, pre-pandemic ONS reports already illustrated the extent of loneliness, with one in four people admitting to feeling it. It’s not just an unpleasant emotion – feeling lonely is proven to have a catastrophic effect on personal health.

Whilst people aged between 18 and 24 were most likely to experience loneliness in the initial lockdown, it was older people who had to abide by the most stringent distancing measures due to their susceptibility. Unsurprisingly older people have taken the brunt of the coronavirus measures, leading to a sharp increase in loneliness and social isolation, with one in three reporting feeling lonelier in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With this in mind, Care Sourcer used a culmination of people, place and population ONS data to create a Loneliness Index that reveals which areas are the loneliest and which are working the hardest to help combat the emerging isolation epidemic in older communities. 

Lonely up North: Durham is the UK’s loneliest place for over-65s

The top 20 loneliest places in the UK 

Lonely Rank Region City Lonely Index Score
1 North East Durham 758
2 Scotland Edinburgh 686
3 Scotland Glasgow 685
4 North East Newcastle upon Tyne 678
5 Yorkshire and the Humber Leeds 655
6 Yorkshire and the Humber Sheffield 639
7 Yorkshire and the Humber Bradford 624
8 Yorkshire and the Humber Wakefield 616
9 North East Sunderland 616
10 Yorkshire and the Humber Doncaster 591
11 Wales Cardiff 586
12 South West Somerset 580
13 North West Liverpool 577
14 Wales Swansea 567
15 Scotland Perth and Kinross 565
16 West Midlands Birmingham 563
17 North West Manchester 560
18 London London 558
19 North East Gateshead 557
20 Yorkshire and the Humber York 556


Whilst nowhere in the UK has escaped the impact of 2020, it’s in the North where loneliness has been most acutely felt since the beginning of lockdown. The North East region, specifically Durham tops our list as the loneliest place in the UK. Newcastle upon Tyne and Sunderland also rank in the top ten at numbers four and nine respectively.

In fact the top 10 loneliest places are all located above the Watford Gap, with the two major Scottish cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow coming in at number two and three, and all the other top spots being located within the Yorkshire and the Humber region.

The South East, the least lonely region of the UK.

Despite the reputation of big cities as isolating places to live, it’s London and areas in the surrounding regions that score lowest in our lonely index. The index revealed that the most sociable regions were dominated by the South East, East of England and London regions.

The least lonely places in the UK

Least Lonely Rank Region Area Lonely Index Score
1 London City of London 145
2 South East Slough 167
3 Outer London Kingston upon Thames 193
4 South East Reading 196
5 East of England Luton 207
6 Outer London Sutton 219
7 South East Wokingham 229
8 East of England Southend-on-Sea 269
9 East of England Peterborough 276
10 Outer London Harrow 298
11 Wales Merthyr Tydfil 300
12 North West Blackburn 305
13 East of England Bedford 307
14 South East Windsor 307
15 Wales Torfaen 314
16 Wales Aberystwyth 315
17 Wales Holyhead 318
18 South East Southampton 326
19 South East Ryde 331
20 South East Portsmouth 340

The City of London itself is officially the least lonely place to live in Britain, scoring 600 points lower than the UK’s loneliest place. London is followed closely by Slough at number two and Kingston Upon Thames pipping Reading to the post in the last spot of the top three. 

North of the border in Scotland is the happiest place in the UK.

Whilst the Scottish capital and Glasgow may be in the running for two of the loneliest places in the UK, the two happiest places to live are also located north of the border. Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides is the most joyous place to live, placing first on our happiness index. Kirkwall on the Orkney Islands places second, suggesting that smaller tight knit communities are where older people feel most affirmation. Bournemouth on England’s south coast ranks third,with our top three towns all being by the seaside. Maybe there’s something in that sea air after all.

The top 10 happiest UK places

Happiness Rank Region Area Happiness Index
1 Scotland Stornoway 8.0
2 Scotland Kirkwall 8.0
3 South West Bournemouth 7.7
4 South East Windsor 7.7
5 North West Blackburn 7.7
6 Wales Holyhead 7.6
7 East of England Luton 7.6
8 North West Wigan 7.6
9 South East Reading 7.6
10 South East Wokingham 7.6
11 Wales Barry 7.6
12 North East Darlington 7.6
13 West Midlands Solihull 7.59
14 South West Plymouth 7.59
15 South West Somerset 7.59
16 South East Maidstone 7.58
17 South East Portsmouth 7.56
18 South West Torquay 7.56
19 East of England Leicester 7.55
20 North West Warrington 7.55

Dudley tops the chart as the saddest place in Britian

The West Midlands town of Dudley is officially the saddest place in the United Kingdom followed closely by its East Midlands counterpart, Nottingham. The Scottish university town of Dundee is number three on the list, with the rest of the top ten being geographically disparate, including the North East city of Newcastle, which is also one of the loneliest in the UK. The Welsh town of Aberdare is fifth, followed by Doncaster, Glasgow and Middlesbrough.

The top 20 least happy places in the UK 

Least Happy Rank Region City Happiness Index
1 West Midlands Dudley 7.0
2 East of England Nottingham 7.1
3 Scotland Dundee 7.1
4 North East Newcastle upon Tyne 7.1
5 Wale Aberdare 7.1
6 Yorkshire at the Humber Kingston upon Hull 7.1
7 Yorkshire at the Humber Doncaster 7.2
8 Outer London Harrow 7.2
9 Scotland Glasgow 7.2
10 North East Middlesbrough 7.2
11 North East Sunderland 7.25
12 West Midlands Wolverhampton 7.26
13 West Midlands Telford and Wrekin 7.27
14 South West Bristol 7.27
15 North East Gateshead 7.27
16 Scotland Greenock 7.29
17 North East Hartlepool 7.31
18 Wales Neath 7.32
19 South East Brighton 7.32
20 South West Bath 7.32

People reaching out in a good old fashioned way

While we live in a more interconnected society than ever before, if anything the ease of communication counterintuitively seems to have led to increased social isolation. Perhaps this is why a number of people have turned to more analogue ways of forming a connection.

Top 20 places where elderly people are trying to reach out

The number of people searching for elderly pen pal schemes across the UK has shot up this year across the country. Essex, London and Birmingham are the places in which people have been most eager to join projects, while the lowest engagement came from the North West. Specifically Hull and Doncaster, the two Yorkshire towns which also feature as two of the saddest places in the UK.

Rank Region Area Search Volume for ‘elderly pen pal’ scheme
1 East of England Essex 110
2 London London 100
3 West Midlands Birmingham 90
4 Wales Cardiff 90
5 Yorkshire and the Humber Sheffield 90
6 South West Bournemouth 80
7 East of England Southend-on-Sea 80
8 North West Manchester 80
9 Yorkshire and the Humber Leeds 80
10 North East Newcastle upon Tyne 80
11 South West Somerset 70
12 South West Plymouth 70
13 East of England Leicester 70
14 South West Swindon 70
15 East of England Peterborough 70
16 Scotland Edinburgh 70
17 North East Sunderland 70
18 Outer London Sutton 70
19 Yorkshire and the Humber Doncaster 70
20 Yorkshire and the Humber Hull 68



To calculate the Loneliness Index, four metrics were used (divorces, self reported health, age and household size) to create individual scores that were combined to create the overall Loneliness Index. High divorces, high levels of a low satisfaction score in regards to health, large populations of 65+ and smaller households all contribute to loneliness according to the UK government’s ONS study. Those scoring higher were assigned bigger Index Scores. 

The Happiness Index was calculated using the ONS wellbeing data set which estimates level of personal wellbeing for constituencies across the UK.

Search volumes for ‘elderly pen pal’ scheme was collected from For areas where there was no data, the region’s average was used. 

Full data set here

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