The proportion of people aged 15 years and over who reported feeling isolated or lonely “sometimes”, “most of the time” or “always” during the previous 12 months, in the Quality of Life Survey.
Social contact is fundamentally important to people: humans are social creatures. Self-assessed loneliness is a proxy indicator of whether people are happy with the amount and quality of social contact they have. As well as being an undesirable state in itself, loneliness may also contribute to poor outcomes in other areas, including adverse health problems such as stress, anxiety or depression.
Current level and trends
In 2008, 16 percent of New Zealanders reported feeling lonely during the last 12 months. Fifteen percent said they felt lonely sometimes, while fewer than 2 percent said they were lonely most of the time or that they always felt lonely. In 2006, 18 percent of New Zealanders reported feeling lonely, similar to the level in 2008.
Feelings of isolation or loneliness are strongly associated with self-rated health and overall life satisfaction. Those who rated their health as “excellent” or “very good” were far less likely to have felt lonely in the past 12 months (10 percent and 14 percent, respectively), than those who rated their health as “poor” (43 percent) or who were dissatisfied with their life (61 percent).
Figure SC5.1 Proportion of people experiencing loneliness, 2006 and 2008
Sources: Quality of Life Survey 2006; Quality of Life Survey 2008
Age and sex differences
In 2008, females (18 percent) were more likely than males (14 percent) to have reported feeling lonely sometimes, most of the time, or always, during the last 12 months. This was the case across all age groups, particularly among people aged 15–24 years and those aged 65 years and over.
Loneliness is most prevalent among females aged 15–24 years (23 percent), followed by females aged 25–34 years (20 percent). Levels of loneliness were lowest among males aged 55–64 years, males aged 65 years and over (both 12 percent) and females aged 55–64 years (13 percent).
Figure SC5.2 Proportion of people experiencing loneliness, by age and sex, 2008
Source: Quality of Life Survey 2008
Europeans reported the lowest rate of loneliness with 15 percent reporting they had felt isolated or lonely in the last 12 months. In comparison, 18 percent of Māori, 23 percent of Pacific peoples and 24 percent of Asian peoples reported having felt isolated or lonely in the past year.
Household type differences
People who live in one-person households and one-parent-with-children (aged under 18 years) households reported higher levels of loneliness (both 30 percent) than other household types. People in couple-only households had the lowest level of loneliness among household types (9 percent).
Reported loneliness declines as personal income rises. People with personal incomes of $30,000 or less reported higher rates of loneliness than those with higher incomes. Twenty-one percent of people with incomes of $30,000 or less reported having felt isolated or lonely in the past 12 months, compared with 9 percent of those with personal incomes between $70,000 and $100,000, and 7 percent of those with personal incomes over $100,000.
Figure SC5.3 Proportion of people experiencing loneliness, by personal income, 2008
Source: Quality of Life Survey 2008
People living in Rodney had the lowest reported level of loneliness (12 percent). The cities of Manukau, Hamilton, Tauranga, Auckland and Waitakere had the highest levels of loneliness, with between 19 percent and 20 percent of people reporting they felt lonely sometimes, most of the time or always.
» View technical details about the loneliness indicator